Friday, June 24, 2016

Justice Society of America (vol.2) #1 (1992)


Justice Society of America (vol.2) #1 (August, 1992)
"Home Again"
Writer - Len Strazewski
Penciller - Mike Parobeck
Inker - Mike Machlan
Letterer - Bob Pinaha
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Editor - Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.25

You ever buy a comic book for the wrong reason?  Let me qualify that... you ever buy a comic simply because you believed it was going to go up in value?  Not because you cared about the story or the characters... just because you thought one day you'd be able to resell the thing at a profit?  I'd love to be able to answer "no" to that question... but if I'm being honest, I was bit by the speculator bug a time or three myself.

It was the Summer of 1992 when that damned bug sunk its teeth into me... and the three books I specu-bought were Spawn #1... Robocop versus Terminator #1... and the book we're going to discuss today, Justice Society of America #1.  Looking back... and hell, even at the time... I kinda felt gross about buying these books with no intention of reading them.  My collection was quite slim... and consisted primarily of X-Men family books.  To give you an idea... I kept my books in several short stacks on a shelf in my closet... when I came home with a Spawn... or Robocop/Terminator book... it just became its own pile.  Almost like I didn't want these to intermingle with my "real" comics.  Like they just didn't belong...

I mentioned Spawn #1 above... this was quite possibly the most uncomfortable purchase of my youth.  I remember it just showing up at the shop... like, outta nowhere.  When Youngblood hit, we knew it was coming... but Spawn just showed up.  Not sure if it just wasn't on our radar, or what... I know I kinda talked myself out of caring about it... I was so fed up with not being able to afford the McFarlane Spider-Man back issues that I'm pretty sure I displaced my anger toward ol' Spawny.

Anyhoo... we show up at the shop at some point in the summer of '92... and find that we're not alone.  Now, our comic shop was basically an unglorified utility closet built into the side of an old house.  When me and my buddy were there alone it was cramped... on this day, we found ourselves sharing air with a heavyset dude in a suit jacket and tie... probably in his mid-late 40's.  He was loud and obnoxious... and had every copy of Spawn #1 the store ordered on the counter.  He and the shop owner were arguing... he wanted to buy out the entire stock... well over 100 copies.  The owner, being surprisingly reasonable put a cap on his purchase... he could buy 20 copies, and no more.

The dude was being a jerk... said he'd just do a bunch of separate transactions.  Said he'd just give his business to the other shops in the area.  Just a real ass.  He turned to my friend and me, and started bragging about flipping these books... I don't wanna use the old speculatory chestnut of "putting the kids through college", but I can't outright discount that it wasn't said.

Instead of kicking this jerk out, the owner kept trying to reason with him... and turned to us for help.  He pointed out that we were likely there for a copy ourselves... and at this point, we were both really psyched to buy it!  I'd hate to have met a snake oil salesman... I'd have been such an easy mark.

The dude hands both me and my friend a copy... laughs at us for "only buying one copy" (I mean, whattayagonnado with ONE copy of a comic book??)... and goes back to arguing with the shop owner.

Ultimately, we pay and leave.  As we're getting on our bikes, the dude (I almost called him the "old dude" before realizing I'm gonna be pushing 40 pretty quick) comes out, and brags that he was able to wrangle 25 copies (at $1.95 per... so $48.75 before tax) out of the shop owner... and then... THEN... offers to sell some copies to us, at $10 a piece.  You can't make this stuff up!

Okay, back to the JSA.  This was advertised as being the "first ever" Justice Society of America #1... when, in actuality it wasn't even the first one that year.  In 1991 there was a Justice Society of America 8-issue miniseries.  Either way, we bought into the hype... Added bonus, this issue featured an appearance by the soon-to-be-dead Superman... so clearly, this book would eventually cover a down payment on a mansion... right?

Before moving on to my spoilery synopsis... just a check on the current "value" of my speculator books of 1992.  From ComicsPriceGuide.com, I found the following for "(9.0) Very Fine/Near Mint":

Spawn #1 - $11.05
Robocop v Terminator #1 - $2.76
Justice Society of America #1 - $9.20

Not a bad haul... it's just too bad that these were all ridiculously overprinted and are quite often found (at least locally) in the cheap-o bins.  In the past year I've seen multiple copies of all three of these in Half-Price Books quarter-bins.  Twelve-year old Chris would've had a stroke!

It's funny to consider that all 25 copies of Spawn #1 that speculator bought (if we are to believe the "value" posted above) would barely cover one three-credit Community College class (textbook not included)... much less a full four-year tuition.

Wow, that went on far longer than I thought it would.  If you're still with me, thank you... Now (finally) on to the book...

--


We open as a crowd piles into Gotham Stadium.  They are there to celebrate the the return... and subsequent retirement of the original superheroes, the Justice Society of America.  We follow a young boy and his grandfather entering the stadium... and perhaps in an ironic commentary on the speculator market, the lad mentions that his gramps' JSA bubblegum cards are probably worth a fortune!


Among the spectators is Lois Lane and Clark Kent.  Clark is mesmerized at the sight of the Society, and mentions that they've provided folks in "his line of work" with tremendous inspiration.  Lois comments that she hopes they have as much time together as the JSA... hmm, well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Lo... but come November... well, I don't wanna spoil it.


Gotham's Mayor does the honors of introducing the members of the JSA... Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Flash, Doctor Midnight, Hourman, Starman,Wildcat, the Atom, Johnny Thunder, and the Sandman.  We read the Society's thoughts as their roll is called... they all express a measure of melancholy, and embarrassment over the fuss being made.


Before the celebration gets going, the monster from the cover of Fantastic Four #1 burrows its way up from under the ground... right in the middle of the stadium.


The Society puts up a decent fight, however, this is a job for Superman!  When the Man of Steel hits the field, all the JSA can do is watch in awe.  Superman makes short work of the beast... and when the smoke clears, it appears that Sandman (Wesley Dodds) has had a(nother) stroke.


We jump several months into the future.  It's Saturday morning at the Full Cup Diner, and Jay Garrick and Alan Scott are enjoying their weekly cup'a coffee (and doughnuts).  We get an update on Wes, he's still in a wheelchair... but is once again able to speak.


The pair talk about just how much has changed... and all they'd been through.  During the Armageddon: Inferno miniseries, the team members had some of their youth restored... and by this point, it's beginning to slip away again.  Though they're both technically retired, Alan still wears his ring... and Jay is more than happy to run across the country for his morning paper.


A woman with a long blonde ponytail is watching from the bar... and when the waitress drops her tray, she exhibits some speed powers of her own.


Over the television, news of a paramilitary group taking over a nuclear power plant is reported.  The fellas look knowingly at each other, and know their morning's just gotten a bit more interesting.  Green Lantern lets out a raucous 90's "Not!" and they're off to the races.


Flash and GL arrive at the plant, and neutralize the threat... with ease.  The pair share ridiculously fun banter as they wallop the geeks... puns, jokes... sarcastic remarks... just great fun!


With the day saved, one of the plant guards remark that this isn't the Green Lantern he's used to... after all, he doesn't have that terrible red bowl haircut.  The older guard scoffs... and states that these aren't the heroes they've been "stuck with" lately... they're the real deal... they're the originals!


As the two old friends leave the scene, Jay turns to Alan and asks about retirement... Alan's reply is yet another "Not!"


--

Man, this was a blast!  Totally wasted on the 12 year-old me... that's for sure.  I really couldn't appreciate this team when I was a kid... and if I'm being honest, I doubt I even tried!  Looking back now, I'm glad there was a book like this for fans of the Golden Age characters... especially in seeing them interact with the contemporary (at the time) DC Universe heavy-hitters.

The Justice Society have always been the elder statesmen of the DC Universe to me... which is probably why I had such a difficult time with the New-52 Earth 2 characters.  It just didn't feel right... wasn't quite sure who the audience was for young Jay Garrick, and young Alan Scott.

The scene with the pair having their Saturday morning coffee and doughnuts was wonderful.  It's just as you would imagine... these two recounting old war stories, and talking about how much different things are "these days" really adds a level of scope to the overall DC landscape.  Its history is rich... and wonderful.  There is still room for a team of "codgers" in this world.

Seeing Alan and Jay in action at the nuclear facility was a hoot.  This is purely an exhibition of what they can do... and I love that they actually appeared to be having fun while fighting crime.  They were making jokes and puns while staring down a nutcase who had designs on causing a nuclear meltdown!  You can tell that they've missed the crime-fighting lifestyle... it's just who they are at this point.

The writing was great... even with those ninetiesisms "Not!"... you really get a feel for these folks, though Flash and Green Lantern are most certainly the stars of this issue.  What can be said about the art of the late Mike Parobeck?  Phenomenal.  I've said before that I'm not too keen on the DC animated universe style... but this is great stuff.

Give it a look should you get the opportunity... as I mentioned above, this is a cheap-o bin standby.  Actually, the entire ten-issue series is pretty easy to come by on the cheap.  I'm not entirely clear why/how this (ongoing) series only made it ten-issues... not sure how strong the sales were... either way, it's too bad this team didn't get a decent-sized run.

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Not really a Letters Page, but good enough for me:


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4 comments:

  1. I loved this series, so different and fresh, compared to everything else in mainstream continuity.

    That Atom costume really took the character back to his brawler, street hero roots.

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    Replies
    1. This was definitely a novelty at the time of publication... kind of a mixed blessing, that. Really love it for being unlike the main DC books of the time, but sadly that's probably why it didn't make it past its 10th issue.

      The Atom's costume is really neat here!

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  2. I come across these from time to time, but while I've bought the 1999-2011 JSA run from back-issue bins, I usually pass on this one. Looks like I should amend that!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Susan! Yes, I would definitely recommend snagging these if you come across 'em... also, Rumor has it (amazon) that this is finally being collected in a trade paperback to be released early-November of this year!

      By the way, the 1999-2011 runs were a ton of fun! Even though I've had this series in my collection for almost a quarter century now, the later runs were the ones I read first!

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