"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).