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deke




We left off with Mike Friedrich blowing kisses to Harlan Ellison in #89.
F for Friedrich, D for Dillin.

#90 "Plague Of The Pale People" on sale April 18, 1971.

It opens with a girl dying on the beach, coupled with the last line of Eliot's "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock". Smart assy, but I can live with it. Can't live with the rest of it though. Pasty folks have taken over Atlantis. Teams form and dump them. The plot is solely a device to allow F to plant in jokes about another (presumably) favorite writer, T. S. Eliot. The palefaces worship "the Proof Rock" (get it?) There's also a quote from William Carlos Williams to wrap it up--sort of like putting an Air Wick on a sewer.

There are two interesting features to this issue, and one I credit to F. He has Hawkman and Superman team, and Hawkman thought balloons that by using his wings as propellors, he can swim nearly as fast as S. I like the idea of Leaguers puffing up their confidence by comparing themselves favorably to S: Aquaman did it in 1970. Don't you wish the JLA had some version of a danger room, with Superman and Batman schooling the others? If there's another JLA/Avengers crossover, save the fights and show us the groups training together. The League never trains together (Batman and Atom admitted as much in a Shaggy Man story from the early 80s, as the satellite's gym was dustier than Michael Pare's phone). I'd love seeing Cap and Tony finally dope out an obstacle course that Kal, J'onn, Diana and Wally can't beat inside of 2 seconds.

The second feature is the ad for T-shirts bearing the cover image to Action #1. Cool. Imagine a T with the cover to Hulk Annual #1, or Detective #329. I'd wear it, wouldn't you?

My complaint about Issue #s 88-90 is that quotes and in jokes replace imagination and plotting. Friedrich wasn't then much older than his target readers, but his writing careens between the pedantic and schoolmasterish and the outright schoolboy silly (Harlan, my love). Writing comics seems to have led him to lose sight of good storyteling. Will the JSA crossover, coming up next, improve on this year's dreary offerings?

#91 Earth The Monster maker" on sale June, 1970

A Kubert cover has Batman tearfully lying "Flash is DEAD! Which one of us will be next?" I have to ask why DC thought it smart/right/interesting to sell the crossover with only the JLA in the forefront. But then I start reading and it all comes back. An alien kid (purple and weepy) and his pet (horsy thing) fell out of mom's spaceship or something, and tumbled to Earths 1 and 2 respectively. These two are no more menacing than Gumby and Pokey. A cover with these clowns decking the JLSA would have sent me spinning the comic rack like a frisbie: "maybe Avengers has something good."

F has one good angle. In a reprise of sorts of O'Neill's ghost meetings from 1970's crossover, now behavior repeats on the Earths. Sadly, it's limited to the Hawkmen patronizing their respective Robins (each appearing as Batman standins). Too bad Batman isn't here--just who would Earth-2's Batman be necking with? Diana? Doiby Dickles? Yes, Batman's on the cover, but he aint in the story--was the cover done last Christmas?

Gumby and Pokey trash assorted JLSAers, then Gumby meets Solomon Grundy, imprecisely described by F as "a hulk of inanimate vegetation." And yet he's swinging away, laying out Superman (sigh).

One last thing. This one cost a quarter, as DC raised its prices and pages. The extras? A Knights Of The Galaxy story (unreadable) and an Hourman brawl copped from the back pages of "Spectre" a few years before. The real extra? Infantino's end-page memo to fans: "Let's stop and rap a moment--we owe you an explanation...to tell it like it is." Rat own.

#92 "Solomon Grundy The One And Only" on sale July, 1971

The Robins are still bitching about the Hawks (get it?). Dick acts rashly in attacking Gumby (why? he's college age now and no tyro in this game), gets trashed and needs a new costume. So Robin-2 re-outfits him in a Neal Adams design, forcing this deathless exchange:

R-1: "Let's show them how high two Robins can fly."

R-2: "Right On Brother!"

R-1: "So your world has that expression too--guess ya can't have everything cool."

rat own, rat own, rat own. At the end the Hawks (get it?) will admit they were patronizing. Brother!

OK, I hate Gumby and Pokey, but Grundy is always a good show. He was murderously scary in his 40's Green Lantern debut and adequately menacing in Showcase #55 (top notch, even if Fate is mis-written as a Batman manque, punching bank robbers instead of casting spells). He also has one of the stupidest origins this side of Skate Man's: he emerged from Slaughter Swamp, complete with vocal chords and the ability to speak halting English, as the result of "the effect of sizzling sunlight on rotting vegetation." Yup, that'll do it every time.

This time around Grundy can absorb any energy used against him to his advantage. Imbued with Fate and Hourman energy from Showcase #55, he tosses Supermen and Flashes like empty cans of Bud. I like Solomon reimagined as a Hulk-level threat instead of the big doofus he all-too- often is made to be. But the clashes get repetitious and the JLSA is made to look like the Inferior Five as they get beaten down over and over by Gumby, Pokey and Solly.

This issue is memorable only for the purple-prose of F's lectures. When Iris zaps to the satellite to nurse the "dead" Barry, F gasses "here is another bond, the link of love...from which flows STRENGTH"

There's more. Professor F hits us with his pointer as he strains for an ending (why not just kill Spectre again?) by having the GLs zap Grundy (butheabsorbsenergyrightsowhydoesthisworkahhdropititslate) accompanied by "here is another life link. the age-old bond of battle...and from this life link flows VICTORY". Sorta makes you miss Johnny Thunder looking for "Flasho and the ever-loving Supey", doesn't it? When Hal and Allan ass-drop Grundy back in the swamp and will up bubble model # 9,000, F rhapsodizes over "a unique swamp and its resident man-thing creating the bond called HOME, from which flows CONTENTMENT".

Don't know about you but I need a shot of insulin about now. But there is a great teaser, as the last page shows Batman, Arrow and Aquaman walking into a sniper's sights. Will Bruce, with Black Canary-stress lines leaping from his head, push Ollie into the bullet? Will we finally get a story not festooned with half-learned quotes and windy lectures? Will I enjoy anything from JLA 1971? Will you?

Tuen in tomorrow, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.


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Rip Jagger




>
> #90 "Plague Of The Pale People" on sale April 18, 1971.
>
> It opens with a girl dying on the beach, coupled with the last line of Eliot's "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock". Smart assy, but I can live with it. Can't live with the rest of it though. Pasty folks have taken over Atlantis. Teams form and dump them. The plot is solely a device to allow F to plant in jokes about another (presumably) favorite writer, T. S. Eliot. The palefaces worship "the Proof Rock" (get it?) There's also a quote from William Carlos Williams to wrap it up--sort of like putting an Air Wick on a sewer.
>

I can't really argue with you on this. This was one of my early JLofA experiences and nostalgia makes it glow brighter than I'm sure it should. The Dillin-Giella artwork is pretty good, though I didn't much like it then. When I first read this one, I didn't know anything and didn't get the literary references. I read it as a straightforward adventure story, and on that level it's an oddly paced somewhat quiet adventure. Reading it as an adult and mindful of the allusions, I have to say it's wildly amateurish and forced but still oddly charming in its naivete. But that's what DC gets for not giving its veteran writers some decent health insurance! *rhe*

Rip Off


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Commander Benson




"Sadly, it's limited to the Hawkmen patronizing their respective Robins (each appearing as Batman stand-ins). . . .

"The Robins are still bitching about the Hawks (get it?). Dick acts rashly in attacking Gumby (why? he's college age now and no tyro in this game), gets trashed and needs a new costume. So Robin-2 re-outfits him in a Neal Adams design . . . ."


THOUGH NOT A mistake proper, this mischaracterisation of the other JLA and JSA members (especially the Hawkmen) towards the Robins is all part of the large package which created my dissatisfaction with most of DC's titles after the Silver Age.

I can barely accept such an attitude toward the Robin of Earth-One, only because of his age. In terms of experience, the Earth-One Boy Wonder had been at the super-hero game longer than his Earth's Atom and Hawkman.

But such a dismissive attitude toward the Earth-Two Robin was completely unpalatable. He was a full-fledged Justice Society member in good standing, and in his adult debut, back in JLA # 55-6 (Aug. and Sep., 1967), he was completely accepted as a peer by the JSA members--including Hawkman. And, therefore, the adult Robin would have no reason to feel the disfranchisement and resentment that he displayed in that 1972 cross-over,

This is yet another instance of one of the "Young Turk" writers--in this case, Mike Friedrich--completely ignoring what had been established previously in order to put forth his Neat Idea.

It's no wonder that I consider JLA to have ended with the last Fox/Sekowsky issue back in 1968.


Commander Benson


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deke





> This is yet another instance of one of the "Young Turk" writers--in this case, Mike Friedrich--completely ignoring what had been established previously in order to put forth his Neat Idea.

I think Friedrich fell in love with "the Hawks" being bad guys, and the Robins (Doves) being good guys. You're right, it's a jerry-rigged conflict, all the more illogical because there's no other conflict between any other of the JLA/JSA. Friedrich simply followed the Denny O'Neill "characterization" dynamic: you're either a cop/ramrod/establishment stiff or a cool guy.

> It's no wonder that I consider JLA to have ended with the last Fox/Sekowsky issue back in 1968.

That said, aren't you tempted to peek at some post-1968 stuff? The O'Neill summer crossover of 1970 (#s 82-83) is, for all its flaws, great fun. And #94 is actually a good Friedrich story.


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Commander Benson




"That said, aren't you tempted to peek at some post-1968 stuff? The O'Neill summer crossover of 1970 (#s 82-83) is, for all its flaws, great fun. And #94 is actually a good Friedrich story."

OH, I HAVE the complete run of JLA, right through to the end of the original series.

It is because I have read them that I feel the way I do. No JLA story subsequent to the last Fox/Sekowsky issue has ever evoked that same sense of wonder and feeling of gratification.

The last two Fox-scripted issues--the JLA/JSA cross-over of 1968--comes close, obviously, because Fox wrote it. But I cannot get by Dick Dillin's art. I always felt he was unsuitable for the Justice League. At least in the early issues, when Sid Greene inked him, it was almost palatable. But Dillin never got an inker really able to rein in his flaws after that.

Writers subsequent to Fox never really got a handle on what kind of organisation the JLA was.

There are, essentially, two kinds of super-teams. I've talked about this before. The first kind is the super-team which is composed of members who are actually independently operating super-heroes, and they only come together when the need arises, or at most, once a month for a regular meeting. It is analogous to such real-life clubs as the Rotary Club or the Lions, or even such things as a city's civil service board--comprised of various members of the community who come together once a month to make determinations regarding city-related events, such as promotions or incidents. For these individuals, membership in such clubs isn't the primary thing in their lives--it is something they do in addition to their regular jobs and lives.

In comics, groups such as the Justice League and Justice Society fall into this category.

The other kind of super-team is that which forms the principal purpose of the members' existences. In real life, it would be the same as belonging to the police department or on a professional sports team. In comics, such groups of this stripe would be the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Doom Patrol, and the like. In each of these cases, the members are not primarily individual heroes; they draw their identities from being part of the group.

In the first kind of group, things tend to be less emotional, less interactive, because the members only see each other once a month or less. There is a certain amount of friendliness, of course, but the chances for a strong group dynamic are less. This is the way that Fox portrayed the Justice League. There was very little characterisation, outside of a group congeniality, because they were together to do a job. And when it was over, either regular meeting or crisis, they went back to their own lives.

In the second kind of group, there is far more interdynamic and more pronounced expression of personality because the members are tied to each other, as the group, and their belonging to it, is their life.

Whether intentionally or not, this is the kind of group that the post-Fox writers turned the Justice League into, by broadening the characterisations of the members and limning a strong interdynamic--by the use of such heavy-handed stunts such as the oh-so-contrived Hawkman-Green Arrow feud, the aborted Batman-Black Canary-Green Arrow triangle, and the "woe-is-me" inferiority complexes of Aquaman, the Atom, and the Elongated Man. All this stuff is fine for, say, the Legion of Super-Heroes, who essentially live, eat, sleep, and fight the Fatal Five together twenty-four hours a day. But it was 'way too collegiate for the Justice League.

The one post-Fox story that came the closest to meeting my approval was the three-part JLA/JSA adventure against the Ultra-Humanite in JLA # 195-7 (Oct. through Dec., 1981). George Pèrez provided some of the best art seen in the title in a long time, and for once, Gerry Conway served up a serviceable plot long on plot and action. I enjoyed this one.

Curiously, the one attempt at writing an "old-style" (read: written by Fox) JLA story, including having Mike Sekowsky handle the art chores--in JLA # 240 (Jul., 1985)--was a major disappointment. Although scripter Kurt Busiek came up with a clever villain with a well-filled-out background and motivation--that part of it was Fox-like--his plot fell short and read nothing like a Fox-written JLA tale. Part of the problem was the much-shorter page-count which left him little room to flesh out the plot. With what he had, by the time Busiek introduced the villain and accounted for the JLAers not participating in the main action, the story was almost over. And, frankly, in the last stages of his career, Sekowsky no longer provided tight pencils. In fact, it looked like his drawing hand was inflicted with palsy.

So, yes, I have read all the stories you are reviewing, deke, and all the ones after that. But they are not tales of the Justice League I know and like. The last one of those was JLA # 63 (Jun., 1968).


Commander Benson


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Blue Beetle




> So, yes, I have read all the stories you are reviewing, deke, and all the ones after that. But they are not tales of the Justice League I know and like. The last one of those was JLA # 63 (Jun., 1968).


Your post was really interesting. I never encountered someone who wanted less characterization. But your point is well taken. More characterization equals less action.





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Ed Love




> "That said, aren't you tempted to peek at some post-1968 stuff? The O'Neill summer crossover of 1970 (#s 82-83) is, for all its flaws, great fun. And #94 is actually a good Friedrich story."
>
> OH, I HAVE the complete run of JLA, right through to the end of the original series.
>
> It is because I have read them that I feel the way I do. No JLA story subsequent to the last Fox/Sekowsky issue has ever evoked that same sense of wonder and feeling of gratification.
>
> The last two Fox-scripted issues--the JLA/JSA cross-over of 1968--comes close, obviously, because Fox wrote it. But I cannot get by Dick Dillin's art. I always felt he was unsuitable for the Justice League. At least in the early issues, when Sid Greene inked him, it was almost palatable. But Dillin never got an inker really able to rein in his flaws after that.

> So, yes, I have read all the stories you are reviewing, deke, and all the ones after that. But they are not tales of the Justice League I know and like. The last one of those was JLA # 63 (Jun., 1968).

Wow. I'm almost the exact opposite. It wasn't until I saw some of Sekowsky's older artwork in bw such as Captain Flash that I got his art at all. I thought his JLA work was basically a necessary evil, lacking any depth whatsoever. At times, usually with the JSA, he came close to having a charming primitivism about him, but it was a toss-up of who was the worst superhero artist of the 60's, him, Reinman on Archie's Mighty Crusaders (another artist whose older work was far more powerful and layered) or the Fraccio/Tallarico team on 60's Dan Garrett Blue Beetle. Dillin was a strong stride forward whose figures didn't look like two dimensional paper cutouts and I love the 64-65, but I like him better with Joe Giella as an inker. Sid Greene is one of my least favorite inkers of the 60s and 70s as he made all the men's faces look like the actor Martin Milner and the women tended to look like Milner in drag.

Golden-age hero and villain encyclopedia: www.geocities.com/cash_gorman

http://hero-goggles.blogspot.com/


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Gernot




> >
> > #90 "Plague Of The Pale People" on sale April 18, 1971.
> >
> > It opens with a girl dying on the beach, coupled with the last line of Eliot's "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock". Smart assy, but I can live with it. Can't live with the rest of it though. Pasty folks have taken over Atlantis. Teams form and dump them. The plot is solely a device to allow F to plant in jokes about another (presumably) favorite writer, T. S. Eliot. The palefaces worship "the Proof Rock" (get it?) There's also a quote from William Carlos Williams to wrap it up--sort of like putting an Air Wick on a sewer.
> >
>
> I can't really argue with you on this. This was one of my early JLofA experiences and nostalgia makes it glow brighter than I'm sure it should. The Dillin-Giella artwork is pretty good, though I didn't much like it then. When I first read this one, I didn't know anything and didn't get the literary references. I read it as a straightforward adventure story, and on that level it's an oddly paced somewhat quiet adventure. Reading it as an adult and mindful of the allusions, I have to say it's wildly amateurish and forced but still oddly charming in its naivete. But that's what DC gets for not giving its veteran writers some decent health insurance! *rhe*
>
> Rip Off

This book marked Aquaman's return to the League, didn't it? I recall Denny O'Neil not knowing what to do with him, so he just ignored him.

Years later, they said Aquaman had taken a leave of absence, because the timing with his search for Mera came together so nicely.

Gernot...

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Gernot




I don't know if you knew this, Deke (or anyone else reading this), but these two issues of JLA got some notice in Amazing World of DC Comics (the JLA issue, I think) for being the team-up that only featured ONLY the counterparts. \:\)

I wonder why most of DC's writers seemed to go out of their way, as Friedrich did, to keep the Earth-2 Batman OUT of the JSA/JLA team-ups, until E. Nelson Bridwell's story. (I'm not counting the one panel he appeared in #83.)

Gernot...

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