Thursday, September 3, 2015

All-Star Comics - High-Priced Society!

Love this warm image of the smiling Justice Society of America rendered by Don Newton for Robert Overstreet's influential Comic Book Price Guide. This "All New 4th Edition" hit the racks in 1974 and the heroes had a lot more reason to smile considering what absolute bargains vintage comics went for back then. Sums for comics were sometimes big, but never enormous and never spectacular nor especially newsworthy. It even makes the dour Spectre evince a wry smile and I bet Sandman is downright giddy behind that fashionable gas mask. Only Atom looks a bit down, likely because as usual he's distracted by how his mother just threw out his comics before he came to the meeting.

And here's another early Newton rendering of the team, this time in glorious black and white. They look like what DC editor Julie Schwartz was afraid the kids would think of a group calling itself a "Society", a bunch of bankers toting up the weekly earnings. That's why he insisted the name get changed to the more adventurous and less chummy "Justice League of America". 

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All-Star Comics - Amazing World!

Panoramic view of vintage Golden Age heroes, many of whom were members in good standing with the Justice Society of America. The late Marshall Rogers, most famous for his renderings of Batman and the delightful Cap'n Quick and the Foozle, really knocked himself out with this gorgeous wraparound cover for the sixteenth issue of Amazing World of DC Comics from 1974.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

All-Star Comics - Amazing Heroes!

Smiling Superheroes by Joe Staton
It wasn't some master plan or something, but when I found out that America Versus The Justice Society of America was just now available in trade paperback, I immediately was hit with an urge to dig out those vintage Bronze Age Justice Society of America yarns by Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Wally Wood, Joe Staton, Bob Layton and other great talents. The JSofA are among my favorite characters in comics, a group of fallible humans (mostly) who suffer the pangs of age, regret and even death. The stories featuring the Justice Society as realized on the long-lost Earth-2 are vivid reminders of what subtle commentaries on life even brash superhero comic books can be.

Heroes, Hitler, and a Heroine Restrained - Comic Book Perfection!
So over the course of the next month expect to see my overwrought reviews of sundry Justice Society adventures from the 70's, the 80's, and even the 90's along with other things of course. DC has tried to kill of the JSofA not once, but twice with a deliberate intent to erase these outstanding Golden Age heroes from their elaborate and rich history and always they return to show a new generation what vivid and compelling characters they can be.

Everett E. Hibbard
In the Favorite Covers section I will be showcasing my favorites among the many memorable and flamboyant covers done for the original All-Star Comics run from the Golden Age; many of these have gotten the homage treatment over the decades.

Mike  Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson
All of the JSofA posts will be gathered under the "All-Star Comics" heading and grouped together under the "Crisis On Multiple Earths" category. It was under the latter that some years ago I took a look at DC's delightful Earth-1 and Earth-2 Justice League summer crossover extravaganzas. If you haven't sampled those I heartily recommend them. 

I love old Earth-2 and the heroes who lived there once upon a time. It's great to visit. Come along.

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Three Thousand!

This is the three thousandth post I have composed for the Dojo. Others which have been written before this one might appear after it and some written after it might appear before, but this here marks the three thousandth time I've sat down and typed out some blather about something on my noggin about comics, movies, or something else entirely. Some few folks have been here for the whole run, some have been and gone, and others have joined as the years have rolled along, more than I anticipated when I started this blogging thing way back in the late spring of 2009.

Those of us in comics love numbers and nice round numbers appeal especially, or they did once upon a time before comics were rebooted every two to three years. One hundred was special, two hundred especially so, three hundred rare, four hundred even rarer and five hundred almost unheard of. Then it all changed.

Comics today are about the moment, the new the instant in which they occur. Memory is wiped clean every few years to make way for another rendition of another concept which likely was created decades before. New is unusual, but novel is commonplace.

So let me take a moment to reflect on three thousand posts.

Good. Now onto the next three thousand.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Children Of The Atom!

Thus fades the "Nuclear Summer" here at the Dojo. I hope it's been fun revisiting some classic atomic-themed comics and films from years past. As usual we close the month with a gallery of vintage favorite covers, this time featuring some atomic characters from a host of companies and a host of decades. From Atoman from Spark in 1946 to Radioactive Man from Bongo in 1996, here are fifty years of fun-loving characters who adore nothing so much as to play with the very fabric of nature and  reality. But then, that's what comics are all about anyway Enjoy another look at these four-color "Children of the Atom"!

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Solar Reflections Five!

With the demise of Gold Key comics and later still the Whitman imprint which had replaced it for a time, the Doctor Solar character lay dormant for many years. Then Jim Shooter and his associates wanted to start up a new comic book company after Shooter's dismissal from Marvel.

While at Marvel Shooter had tried to initiate a "New Universe", one apart from the more traditional superhero one and in which the laws of nature and science were more consistent with the real world we live in. There would be an attempt at verisimilitude which was largely impossible in the sprawling Marvel Universe, full as it had become with all manner of super-beings.  This New Universe was pretty much a failure save for a few titles like DP7 and Psi-Force both of which had more than a tiny similarity to Marvel's X-Men.

Shooter took this basic idea of a new universe though and used it as the template for his new company which was dubbed Valiant Comics. The core of Valiant was familiar names from the vintage Gold Key imprint of decades past such as Magnus, Turok, and Solar. The Doctor Solar we meet in this new rendition is much different. In an origin story which weirdly was serialized in the first ten issues of the series, while the main story itself started where the origin would eventually end, this saga was one filled with mystery from the get go.

Like the Doctor Solar of the Gold Key comics this one was the product of a nuclear accident. Dr.Philip Seleski is a fan of the vintage comics and also a brilliant man who creates fusion technology which hopefully will give the world vast power. But it goes wrong and he is changed into a godlike being who slowly comes to terms with his new status while those around him such as love interest Gayle Nordheim and his boss Dr.Dobson grow to fear him. Added to the cast this time is a troubled woman named Erica Pierce who comes to be a critical part of Valiant's storytelling. Selesky, who sometimes jokingly refers to himself as "Solar, the Polish Sun God" grows to use his power more and more trying at times to remove what he sees as threatening nuclear power and consequently the authorities become wary. In a final move he takes Gayle with him and in an act of foolish bravado ends up destroying the world as we know it. The world then he recreates and this then is the Valiant universe, now changed in weird ways and full of super-powered possibilities not before possible. In that world he eventually finds a role which calls upon the unrealistic optimism of the vintage Doctor Solar of the classic Gold Key Comics.

It's complicated to say the least. But it is a full-blooded realization of what being a superhero might really be, a challenging and engaging take on the character. Eventually Shooter is ushered out of the company he helped create and Solar goes on to become a mainstay for the Valiant imprint.

Eventually though the end comes after many changes in title, direction and even ownership. The 90's were a heady time for comics with lots of money folks seeking to make bundles on the fan interest the funny books created. It made for some bad comics and for some greedy outcomes which eventually nearly killed off the industry.

But that wasn't the end of Doctor Solar Man of the Atom.

Jim Shooter made a compact with Dark Horse Comics and produced eight more Doctor Solar issues about a half decade ago. They featured some very refined art and were heavy on the science which like the Valiant stories of many years before played with the conceits of the superhero and applied them to a more realistic world. While interesting the comics were not especially exciting and the series was cancelled.

But that was still not the end of Doctor Solar Man of the Atom.

Nowadays Dynamite Comics has the license and has (as usual) produced some few issues but dozens of covers. I've peeked at it, but it's not my cup of tea alas.

And that wraps up Solar reflections for now. Doctor Solar has proven to be a durable character and vivid concept. The costume is so simple and memorable that it has helped certainly and it's ironic that is the case since Gold Key was so reluctant to create such a distinctive look.

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