Category Archives: 90s DC

Super-Blog Team Up Presents-GODKILLERS: Doomsday & Bane!

 OTIwToNO

 

Hey there!  Welcome to a very special installment of The Unspoken Decade, as this is our first foray into the AMAZING Super-Blog Team-Up!  After you’re done enjoying our article here, check out the other great blogs participating in this go-round of the Super-Blog Team-Up!  Aw, who the hell am I kidding?  Those blogs are so great, you’re probably going to go read them first.  Reckon I can’t blame you, so go ahead and scope them out!  I will wait.

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You’re back?  Fantastic!  Hope you had a most excellent time, and I just want to say how honored we are here at The Unspoken Decade to be a part of the Super-Blog Team-Up, even if it has meant one of the busiest weeks of my life!  Regular readers of the best 90’s comics blog in the universe know that our usual post date is Monday, and I know that all of you enjoyed that kickass X-Force article. A few of you even enjoyed the Mike Mignola X-Force surprise post yesterday, but this is now our third straight day with a post, a first here, and between this and the two LIVE radio shows I know all y’all listen to every week (Compton After Dark and Her Dork World/His Dork World), and working 6 days a week at my regular job, I have been working my fingers to the bone!

But no matter how bad I have had it this week, two of the greatest heroes of all time had it much worse in the early 90’s.  There’s no way anyone, superhero fan or not, who was alive and cognizant in the early 90’s could forget the furor and hoopla over the death of Superman and the breaking of Batman’s back.  The latter did not create the firestorm that the former did, most likely because it came after Superman’s demise and at the same time as his rebirth, but it still caused ripples in the mainstream media, a place that comics were rarely able to venture into in the early 90’s, although that notion seems silly now, as we are in an era where super hero movies routinely dominate the box office.  But as usual, I digress.

From what I understand, it was Jerry Ordway’s idea to kill Superman.  Superman had four monthly titles then, and the creative teams worked closely together so that the four titles (Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Superman:  The Man of Steel) basically meshed together to make what was essentially a weekly series.  Not being a giant Superman fan, that seems like more than a bit much.  I’m sure the Superman fans were ecstatic, but I didn’t know either of them.  None of my pals were into Superman.  He was seen as a relic, and the four titles were ignored by us and the world; they were to be seen as a stepping stone to license underoos and usually shitty video games.

Then they decided to kill him.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 11
Doomsday’s suit makes him look like one of the villains from the Sega CD game Night Trap, especially if one of them had been apprehended by Dr. Octopus

 

Don’t let the snark in my statement fool you; I fucking love Doomsday in this suit.  He looks creepy to me, and somehow even deadlier than when he loses the suit and has BONES THAT STICK OUT OF HIS KNEES.  I like his look and all, but I think it is hilarious that the guy who iced the Big Red S has such a feature.  It just seems silly and too “comic booky,” but then again, not only is this guy’s name Doomsday, but this also is a comic book, so I guess I can let knee-bones go.

One thing Doomsday and I have in common is an intense hatred of birds.  DC decided a great way to get me to hate Doomsday would be to have him kill a bird with his hand, and while I am not the kind of person who is cruel to animals, if Doomsday wants to kill a wild bird, power to him.  I fucking hate birds.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 17
I guess the laughing afterwards makes it creepy, but the real question is, why the hell did that bird come to Doomsday in the first place? Did he think he was the world’s scariest and least ergonomic birdbath or something?

 

Seriously, why would that bird leave the flock just to fly over to Doomsday and meet its demise?  Perhaps it was sad and ostracized by the others.  We will never know now.  What we do know is that if we are to take Doomsday seriously as a villain, he must beat some enemy greater than a lonely bird who had no flock friends.

ENTER THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA!

I guess technically they were not the Justice League OF America, as their title was just “Justice League America,” and they also had a counterpart in Europe, cleverly titled “Justice League Europe”.   When I was in 7th grade, I “made up” a team called The Protection Agency, and then placed them all over the globe.   “Protection Agency Asia” and “Protection Agency Australia” were two of the teams, and if you don’t get the pattern from those two, I am not sure you should be allowed to read this or any blog.

I was accused, rightfully so, by my pals of just copying Justice League.  Of course, I could not admit this, so I clung as hard as I could to the fact that I put a Protection Agency on every continent and not just two, thus making my idea much different than JLA or JLE.  Yeah, they didn’t buy it either.  What we all bought, or at least tried to buy, was this:

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 32
Does Oberon just listen to every police band in the world and wait for something that sounds worth of JLA attention? That’s both the best and worst job ever.

 

The JLA had little identity in this time.  They were past the Maguire/Giffen/Dematteis humorous BWAHAHAHAHA era (which should be checked out by those who haven’t ever seen those JL comics.  They are as good as you have been told.), but they haven’t really established themselves as anything but a generic super-hero team.  They are a group of B-Listers and The Man of Tomorrow.  I’m not knocking these guys; I am a fan of all of them, and I especially love Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle.  My sister, Angel Hayes (who does work here at The Unspoken Decade too), is a giant Booster Gold fan.  But there’s something about this team that just doesn’t work for me.  Maybe it is Maxima, a former Superman villain, being on the team, or maybe it is a lack of Martian Manhunter at this time, but it just doesn’t always feel like the JLA.  I do like them, though, because as I have said in other entries, this is MY era, so this was MY JLA in a certain sense.  Even the JLA with Nuklon and Blue Devil holds a near and dear place to my heart, although Morrison’s JLA did eventually supplant this group as MY JLA later.

I wonder if that powerhouse line-up in Morrison’s JLA could have done better against Doomsday than this Justice League did.  One thing is for sure:  They could not have done much worse.

This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.
This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.

As bad as Guy Gardner got it, he didn’t lose out nearly as badly as Blue Beetle, who was literally beaten into a coma.  I’m not one of those folks who misuses literally, so you can stop cringing now.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 48

Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.
Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.

As Blue Beetle lay dying, his best friend was hurtling through the sky, having been punched by Doomsday.  REALLY HARD.  Thankfully, Booster Gold literally has friends in high places.  Now you can cringe.

Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.
Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.

The books do a fantastic job of very quickly getting Doomsday over as a force to be reckoned with.  What made him even more palatable to readers, especially readers my age when this came out, is the fact that Doomsday was shrouded in mystery.  I don’t mean that he was wearing that awesome Night Trap villain suit; I mean that no one knew who he was.  I think nearly every character that got hot in the early 90’s had a past that was at least cloudy, if not as outright murky as The Everglades at midnight on an overcast night.  Ghost Rider, Cable, and Wolverine all immediately spring to mind as examples of this phenomenon.

Sacrificing the JLA, even if it wasn’t your Daddy’s JLA or even Grant Morrison’s JLA, made Doomsday seem formidable, but the next question had to be how they’d make Superman seem just as formidable.  The answer is an old-school wrestling tactic:  THE NO-SELL!

Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.
Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.

Then they beat on each other.  A LOT!  This had to be one of the most savage fights in the history of Superman, and it had to happen against the most savage opponent he ever faced.  You would think that whoever killed Superman should have been well-known, but I think having the character that killed Superman (and the character that broke the Batman) comes out of nowhere really showed the inherent danger of being a superhero.  Since we know that these stories are fictional, we can forget how serious these adventures can be.  Having a new guy come out of the woodwork and destroy an established character reminds the audience of that danger, thus inspiring new interest.

Doomsday is also one of those characters, much like Punisher and Hulk, who is more of a force of nature than they are people or people-like entities.  Doomsday seems to exist just to destroy whatever gets in his path, and he had no direction.  That is, until he found pro wrestling.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 109
(I think that Doomsday destroyed this Lex-Mart because he hates the encroachment of Corporate America against small business.)

Once again, wrestling is to blame for destroying everything.  Of course, being the huge wrestling fan that I am, I would actually be interested in WarBash.  This card spelled doom for the citizens of Metropolis, though, as this is the moment that Doomsday became aware that he no longer had to use the Disney secret of calling birds to himself so he could subsequently kill them.  No longer would he have to wait for a cadre of costumed heroes to attack him.  He knew there was a battle waiting for him in Metropolis in the form of Major Mayhem!

Despite looking more like the lead singer of The Village People than a legitimate World Heavyweight Champion, Major Mayhem was able to teach the DC Universe’s most formidable force of nature the geography lesson that led to the death of Earth’s Greatest Hero.  He now knew of Metropolis.  One smashed road sign later, and somewhere in the distance Death of The Endless put on her blackest makeup and coolest ankh and headed for Metropolis as well.  (Spoiler Alert:  She isn’t in any of these comics.)

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 123
He smashed The Cadmus Project and Guardian too, but I can’t show you everything here.  This article is too long as it is!

Superman, the world’s mightiest hero, seems to be very out of his league here.  In a single swoop, Doomsday would eviscerate Superman, and punch the 90’s Supergirl (who will one day get a write-up here!)into goop.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 138
Supergirl appears to be made out of Nickelodeon Gak.

 

Fearsome.  I think this was the first time I ever saw Superman bleed.  This was also from the first issue of the storyline I was able to pick up.  Every time I hit the LCS then, the Doomsday stuff was sold out.  My mom managed to snag this one for me.  I remember trying to keep it in near-mint condition as I watched the Wizard articles tell me that its price was climbing higher and higher, but I also was completely overwhelmed by the comic and just had to read it over and over.  This meant an early demise for what I thought was going to be worth a fortune forever, but in hindsight, there were very few comics I loved more than the one where Supergirl fell to Doomsday.

Despite the setbacks and despite Doomsday’s rampant brutality, Superman remains valiant and steadfast in his belief that he will stop this creature, no matter what takes.  The determination shines through, and you believe that a Superman will die.

I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.
I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.

 

Dan Jurgens does an amazing job with Superman #75.  Every page is a single panel; every panel is a story, culminating in an epic showdown where Superman’s Double-Axehandle is pitted against a big haymaker from Doomsday. Jurgens shows us not just how Superman appeared to the world, but also to those closest to him.  This makes his imminent death personal, and not just the death of an icon that we have all been familiar with since before we could read.  Before we see The Man of Tomorrow die, we must see him live.

 

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 154 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 158 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 166 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 168 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 172

 

The entire saga is amazing, as we see a World Without a Superman, and the Return of Superman was really clever, with four men claiming to be Superman.  Doomsday was the perfect entity to destroy Superman.  He’s a monster from his opening panel until his demise alongside The Man of Steel.  His relentless onslaught was more than even Superman can handle, and even though it cost Doomsday his life, he can say what few villains can; he not only defeated, but he killed Superman.  Such a feat alone makes him worthy of inclusion in the villains entry for this go-round of Super-Blog Team Up.

However, Superman was not the only iconic superhero to fall prey to a villain.  He wasn’t even the only iconic hero to fall to a brand new villain.  In the case of the Caped Crusader,  Bane was able to do something adversaries like The Joker, The Riddler, or even KGBeast had been unable to do, and that is break Batman.

Bane first appeared in the Chuck Dixon/Graham Bolan special, Batman:  Vengeance of Bane.  I actually bought this off the shelf when it first came out.  I loved the cover, and I loved one-shots.  Due to my status as poor white trash, I was sometimes unable to get all the parts of a multi-part story, and so one-shots appealed to me, and how could a cover like this not appeal to anyone?

With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.
With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.

I said on my entry here on Punisher:  War Zone #1 that Chuck Dixon probably only wrote one masterpiece, but after reading VoB, I have to reconsider my stance.  This is amazing.  By the time you are finished with it, you both feel sorry for and repulsed by Bane.  He got a rather raw deal in life, but he somehow turns it all to his advantage.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 4 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 6

I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.
I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.

 

You start out feeling badly for Bane, as he has been “trapped in a world he never made!” in a much more harsh way than we ever saw happen to Howard the Duck.  Many folks, myself included, sometimes complain about the cards life handed us, but this story reminds us that there are many, especially in the third world, that have it so much worse than us.    Bane was screwed before he ever tasted oxygen.

Bane could have allowed that to damn him, but he instead rises to the challenge and makes himself king of the prison.   First, though, he has an accident that bashes his head and renders him comatose.  He has a vision of his future self while unconscious that inspires him to rise to the occasion by becoming stronger than all those around him.  Bane starts quickly after emerging from the coma, as the inmate who offered Bane what seemed to be unsavory employment gets his quickly…

It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.
It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.

Bane gets sent back to solitary for this, and when he emerges this time, he is a man on a mission.  He picks up a few henchmen in the prison, and begins his takeover.  He also learns to read, which I like to think was inspired by pirated broadcasts of Reading Rainbow starring LeVar Burton, but that probably isn’t true.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 22
The henchman dumping the books out of the bag, Trogg, is holding that bag of books like it is a trick or treat bag full of candy.

Soon, ruling the prison just isn’t enough for Bane, who has become the pinnacle of prowess via sheer will, concentration, and determination.  His thirst for knowledge in these books means he soon learns of a great world outside of these walls, and he finds himself wanting to know all about it.  He is intrigued when his henchman Bird (who can seemingly talk to Birds, so it isn’t just a clever name) tells him of Gotham City and Batman.  Bane decides he is to rule Gotham.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 24

That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.
That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.

Bane is then placed into an experiment in the prison using the drug Venom, which had been featured in the Batman comics prior to this.  Bruce Wayne even got addicted to it.  Bane survives experiment after experiment in the prison, and eventually, engineers a way off the island.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 28 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 32

That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.
That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.

 

Now that he has escaped the prison, Bane is in Gotham City, learning the ropes, and discovering television, in the early 90’s, I would have had to recommend USA Up All Night to him.  Being the savvy guy that he is, I am sure that he found Rhonda Sheer and Gilbert Gottfried all on his own.

He was also able to start carving a piece of the Gotham City underworld out for himself with the help of his henchmen.  That was just the start of what would eventually culminate in this…

Batman_497BBatman - Knightfall #232 - Page 42 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 44 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 46

Batman was broken.  Superman was dead.  The 90’s brought you the villains who fulfilled the promises of all the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age villains that preceded them.  They destroyed the icons of good, maybe not forever, but more thoroughly than any who came before them.  These two characters also became firmly entrenched in the lore of Batman and Superman, showing up in cartoons, movies, and one of the most underrated beat ‘em up games of all time.

979269-snes_death_and_return_of_superman_the_box_front
(I played this for hours and never beat it, no matter how many late fees I racked up at the video store by keeping it too long. Thanks to emulators and GameFAQ, I will soon though.)

 

These villains had to be larger than life, bigger than Gods and a 90’s kind of extreme in order to triumph over the greatest superheroes of all time, but they did so with aplomb, and remember, it all happened in The Unspoken  Decade…

Now head on over to the articles listed below and enjoy Super –Blog Team-Up!!!  Thanks for stopping in with The Unspoken Decade!  Special post tomorrow, and then next Monday, take a look at Starman!!!!  Also, check me out LIVE on internet radio Thursday nights at midnight for Her Dork World, His Dork World, and on Sunday nights at 11:30 Eastern for Compton After Dark!!!

Bronze Age Babies show us The Frightful Four!

Fantastiverse brings you The Green Goblin!

Check out an edible Boba Fett and Darth Vader at Between the Pages!

Longbox Graveyard brings us the best cosmic villain ever, Thanos!

SuperHero Satellite shows us The Legion in The Great Darkness Saga!

Chasing Amazing gets 90’s like we do here as the monster called Carnage arrives!

Superior Spider-Talk goes old school with The Chameleon!

Silver Age Sensations is bringing us the best Armored Soviet not named Rocket Red!

The Daily Rios brings you JLA vs. Beasts!

Flodo’s Page features Green Lantern villain The Lamplighter!

The Retroist gives you the one villain who rises above all others…DOOM!

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Finding Love in a Hopeless Place-The Justice Society of America

To enjoy the Justice Society of America as much as I did at the time I did is to be almost as big an anomalous anachronism as they are.  I suppose on the surface, a WWII team that was still active in the 1990’s seems silly, but somewhere in that silliness lay magic.  Even beyond that silliness, within the JSA was sternness beyond reproach.  I respected and revered the JSA for reasons that I did not and still do not fully understand.

Part of my adoration has to be their connection to WWII.  I recently wrote a guest blog for www.longboxgraveyard.com  about the All-Star Squadron, another title I love that features the JSA.  In that article, I talked about my reverence for WWII, both as a young man obsessed with the maps in the encyclopedia that told the story of WWII, and I am also an ardent antifascist (to the point where you can find me on twitter as @theantifascist), which enables me to identify with the brave men and women who stood up against blatant oppression and repression so that the world might be a slightly freer place.

Another reason for my reverence is my unrelenting passion for things I get interested in.  As was noted in the first entry here at The Unspoken Decade, I must learn everything I possibly can about anything I am into.  I must know the history, and I must know it fast.  When it comes to superhero comic books, they really do not get much more historic than the Justice Society of America!

Of course, no amount of obsession with history could have made me more interested in the JSA than, say, A FUCKING FANTASTIC COMIC!  Which is what the Justice Society of America comic released in the 1990’s totally is in every possible way.  Don’t believe me?  Choke on this, hater.

Maybe if Hawkgirl and Hawkman fly around that monster long enough they’ll defeat it.
Maybe if Hawkgirl and Hawkman fly around that monster long enough they’ll defeat it.

I recall vividly the very first time I laid eyes on a copy of this series.  I was in Springfield, MO.  My Dad had just killed himself. (BUZZKILL,)  We were in town for the funeral, and needless to say, I was quite distraught.  I did my best to keep it together, and all things considered I did a good job.  I was about a year into collecting comics at this time, and to make a shitty situation better, my parents (Mom and Stepfather) had promised to take me to a “big time” comic book store.   Despite the pallor of the trip, I could not help but be excited for this.  Our town had a great comic book store, and in hindsight I love it even more than I loved it then, but I was enchanted by a bigger store with more back issues.  My local store was also a used bookstore, and most of the space was dedicated to the books.  While my 13-year old self occasionally wandered into that section to snicker at the double entendre titles adorning the romance books, I hungered for what I believed a “real” comic book store to be like.  Now that I think about it, what the hell could that even mean?  Did I think Goddamn Stan Lee and Frank Miller were gonna be playing catch with an NFL Superpro football or something?  I haven’t the slightest.

We would not get to that comic book store until the very end of the trip, in what was a hilarious horrorshow that I will save for another article, but during our sojourn, we stopped at several convenience stores in Springfield.  These stores were like magic to me because unlike the backwoods gas stations we had down south, these stores had COMIC BOOKS!  Of course, I was mesmerized at every stop, and I always found some excuse to go in and gaze at the comics.  That’s where I was first introduced to the greatness that is Mike Parobeck’s art.

We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.
We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.

(We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.)

 

I was, and still am, a giant Guy Gardner fan.  He’s still one of my favorite Green Lanterns, mostly because he is the only character in superhero history that got super powers who isn’t all the way good or bad.  He’s an asshole, but he isn’t evil.  He’s like a cop who actually plays by the book, but that same cop likes letting everyone know just how good he is, how bad they are, how lucky they are to know him, and you get the joke by now.  Of course, that cop-stache ain’t going to go well with that do.

Speaking of Guy’s haircut, I find it sort of spectacular he had that haircut because it is the sort of bad haircut most assholes had, but just two years later, this haircut was all the rage.  Even I had one, although all pictures of said haircut have been destroyed…

But the point is that the cover with Guy drew me in, and then I couldn’t really stop staring at it.  I actually got in trouble for looking at it when we stopped at a gas station at night under a street light for the few seconds we would be there.  I just could not stop looking at it.  Then, I read it.  Then, my life changed.

 

Justice Society of America V2 #9 - Page 15
If anyone ever tries to tell me folks with rings that do anything they will fighting each other isn’t cool as hell then I will refer them directly here and immediately accept their apology and firstborn in restitution.

I just loved it.  I loved the art, but I also loved how much I cared about folks much older than me.  I had heard of the Justice Society prior, both through comic book cards and through the issues of All-Star Squadron I had thumbed through at the flea market.  I was interested, but this was the first time I was captivated.

Len Strazewski does a tremendous job of getting Green Lantern over immediately as not just a formidable ringslinger, but he also makes him cool.  Like, he is cooler than the cool grandpa you wish you had.

Justice Society of America V2 #9 - Page 18
Alan Scott, Golden Age Green Lantern, calls Guy Gardner a Looney Tune, then dispatches him like one. That’s how it’s done!

The dialogue is also spot on.  Some folks have denigrated it as “old-fashioned,” but imagine that, some guys who fought in WWII talk differently than other folks in the 1990’s.  I don’t find it to be “old-fashioned” at all, though.  I think it is straight-forward, as people of that era often were.  These are folks who just do not mince words, and that happens to be a massive part of their appeal to me.  The JSA came to me during what was a rather tumultuous time in my life, as referenced earlier.  Their strength and matter-of-fact attitude helped me feel and stay safe in a world that for me was changing fast.

I loved that comic so much, that the comic book part of the trip was grand.  I had found a treasure in a bad part of my life in a place I never thought I’d find it.  Of course, that just meant that the next day I would find another issue of Justice Society of America in a different gas station!

Justice Society of America V2 #8 - Page 1
Only bad thing about this cover is you can’t see the cool eye logo they wear on their hoods.

I felt like some sort of Texas oil man who had struck two gushers in as many days!  My good fortune was much needed at this time, and again, I just read it over and over again. I loved the introduction of Jesse Quick.  The idea that these identities would be mantles to be passed in legacy was sacrosanct to me.  I wanted to believe in such a thing, especially at this time.  I wanted to believe in legacy; even if I hadn’t, the Justice Society of America would have convinced me otherwise anyhow.   There isn’t a damn thing this series gets wrong.  For Christ’s sake, look how it starts!

 

Nice Sign, #8...
Nice Sign, #8…

The JSA has returned in all of their glory!  This is from Issue #1, and the splash page is beautiful.  Mike Parobeck did such an amazing job with all of these guys, and really on everything he touched.  I also don’t want to underestimate the coloring in this book.  The colors pop in a way that matches the never-say-die attitude of these members of The Greatest Generation.  Many times over the course of this title, the JSA triumphs seemingly with just their grit and determination!   Strazewski and Parobeck do a great job of making almost everything they do inspiring.  Even a subplot about Wildcat and The Golden Age Atom wondering if they are too old or too depowered to help, they inspire.  When Hourman struggles with addiction to Miraclo, the drug that gives him his power, his struggle inspires.  This title never loses sight of the fact that the JSA were a beacon of hope to many in the DC Universe, starting with Superman practically worshipping them in issue #1; the guest appearance that really hammers home the relationship of hope and legacy, though, is the appearance of The Flash in #5.

(Ultra-Humanite looks like a cross between an ape and a sad old man.  That Hulk Hogan hair just isn’t working in this picture.
Ultra-Humanite looks like a cross between an ape and a sad old man. That Hulk Hogan hair just isn’t working in this picture.

Despite having been overwhelmed by the Ultra-Humanite, and despite being seemingly outclassed, the JSA tackles and defeats Ultra-Humanite en masse, with a joviality and determination that could be reserved only for the best of friends!

Wildcat can't believe it's not butter.
Wildcat can’t believe it’s not butter.

I love how their camaraderie may be their best weapon.  Their ability to fervently believe in each other and always have each other’s backs makes saving the world not just cool to see, but it comes across as cool for them to do.  Basically, they are the most effective and fun-having extended family since Full House.

For real though, no matter how dire the situation, and no matter how serious the threat, the JSA never loses their swashbuckler attitude, and why should they?  No matter what the threat was, if I was the fastest man alive or if I wielded the magicks of the Lords of Order then I would also constantly be having the time of my life as well, although I’d be slightly more selfish than these guys.  I’d totally use those magicks to make a giant pie that I would then shove into the “face” of a planet.  I’d also do the world saving stuff, but I am just too much of a scamp to never indulge the great interstellar pranks I could do with, say, a power ring.

Unfortunately, the fun and adventure in this title would not last long.  Despite good sales, the brass at DC decided that the JSA didn’t fit into their plans.  Len Strazewski (who I am interviewing on my radio show, Compton After Dark on 5/4 at www.vocnation.com) thinks that Mike Carlin is the man primarily responsible, but whoever it was very short-sighted, as the JSA still had lots to offer.  I find it very telling that unlike other titles that were canceled at this time (many of them canceled for much worse sales than JSA had) got twelve issues to fill out their stories.  This instance of Justice Society of America only got ten.  Black Condor got 12!  Primal Force got 12!  Black Canary got 12!  All of them, and I like all of them and plan on bringing y’all articles on each one of them in the future, had worse sales than JSA.  Why cut this title two issues earlier than was the standard paradigm at the time?  I have no idea other than what Len says, which is that there was enmity against the title within the front office.

Enmity or not though, the Justice Society of America goes out with a bang!

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 1
I love how angry they all look. They must know they are being cancelled. Especially nice is how angry Sandman is able to look DESPITE WEARING A MASK.

 Since issue #1, we have been dealing with a sub-plot involving everyone’s favorite ornithological archaeologist couple, Hawkman and Hawkgirl.  They’ve been in Egypt, unearthing some sort of bizarre GIANT MUMMY.  Caps are there just to let you know how giant it is.

Unfortunately for the Hawks and the rest of the JSA, this mummy is actually Kulak, a little-used Spectre villain who showed up here to plague the JSA!  The fact that Kulak, former high priest on the planet Brztal, had hardly been used since the Golden Age prior to this is some sort of insult to everything great about comic books.  He uses magic, has a GIANT EYE as his symbol, and went toe-to-toe with The Spectre!  Naturally, he has everything it takes to essentially enslave the Hawks and have Carter Hall turn the entire world against the rest of the JSA!  He also had the ability to be super creepy as he intimates doing the nasty with Hawkgirl.

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 6
I wish the panel where Hawkgirl holds that whip and moans while Kulak licks her with his oversized tongue was more suggestive

Sadly, for the last time, we see the JSA’s indomitable spirit enable them to rise to the occasion and defeat a foe who had them badly on the ropes, and once again some of the members who possess the least powers are the ones that rally the team and remind them all that no matter what the odds are, they can prevail; at least, they can prevail provided they are fighting Wotan or the Ultra-Humanite, but against the powers of a DC Comics editorial mandate they are helpless.  Of course, they really didn’t get to fight too fairly.  Can you imagine a DC Editor telling Dr. Mid-Nite no?

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 15
Golden Age Green Lantern is very whiny considering he has a magic ring that can do ANYTHING while Dr. Mid-Nite is just a blind guy who can see.

The Hawks get freed, and the JSA finds a way to save the day.  Everything feels really rushed, and I wonder if it is because the cancellation came on quickly.  I will definitely be asking Len on my show May 4th about that!

This series came to me at a time in my life when I really needed something like this, and I could not be more thankful.  That having been said, this book would be wonderful to me no matter when I would have discovered it.  Good story, great art, and a sense of spirit that few comic books ever have.  This book is inspiring without being preachy about it; there’s a sense of pride and determination that I took away from it.  I think many others do too.

I am going to leave you with the last shot of the book and the comments Len made in the last LetterCol in JSA.  Even in their last moment, the JSA seems so regal, as though even though they know that this book is going away, nothing will ever really dampen the legacy they built.  No matter what the company that owns them does with their name and with the characters, the Justice Society of America will always persevere, and no enemy will ever hold them down for long, unless that enemy is the Golden Age Green Lantern arch-enemy Sportsmaster.

sportsmaster
He is evil and good at sports? So that makes him, who, Barry Bonds?

Don’t forget to listen to my radio show, Compton After Dark, Sunday, May 4th, 2014, as we will be interviewing the writer of this book, Len Strazewski!  It’s at 11:30 PM EDT on http://www.vocnation.com!  Enjoy the pinup and Len’s thoughts below, and join us here at The Unspoken Decade next week when we tackle Darkhawk!  Not literally.

 

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