By Jacobus Dixon

By the winter of 1940, superheroes were causing funny book magazines to just fly off the newsstands. They were an odd blend or mythology and athleticism wrapped in a brilliant package of primary colors. They often lived fulfilling lives as prosperous or wealthy men, but men still hungry for adventure. And almost all of their adventures involved finding the source of their problems and delivering a killer knockout blow to them. It was like watching a sports event with higher stakes and a team that you knew would win, but not how. And even though the hero’s tactics to triumph were often completely exaggerated and unrealistic, it didn’t matter! That was part of the fun. It would have been like saying Popeye was terrible because he misrepresents what spinach can do for you. But people didn’t read Popeye comic strips and watch Popeye cartoons because they wanted to see the effects of spinach on human physiology, nor did they read superhero comics for real solutions to the financial inequities of the Depression and American life in general. They wanted to be entertained, and seeing a colorfully clad athlete sock a local street tough or thieving businessman was just what they were looking for.  But what was the next step? How do you keep these characters from going stale? Well…grouping them together to form some kind of team seemed like a good idea. And that’s exactly what All-American Publications did.

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What happens when you have the world’s fastest man, a vengeful ghost, a schlub with a powerful genie ally, a small but ferocious fighter, a fierce fighter who flies, a wizard, a guy who derives his power from a pill (hmm steroids anyone?), a guy with an all-powerful mystic ring, and someone who fights crime with sleeping gas and clues from prophetic dreams mixed together? The Justice Society of America is what you have. Every one of these characters could claim success (some more than others) but this was more or less what happened when individual characters were put together to form a complete set. This was an all-star lineup if ever there was one. The prospective buyers don’t have to worry about any dull stories in this issue, because they know there won’t be any. And this isn’t just some random meeting between these heroes. The round table that sees all of them as equal indicates that these guys mean business and aren’t here to mess around. Not only does this picture of them sitting at this official-looking table denote seriousness, but also that these guys are part of some kind of exclusive club that only the best of the best can enter (which, seeing as how they’re All-American Publishing’s cash cows, is more than appropriate).

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We see every one of these characters assembled (except Johnny Thunder) and ready to get down to stomping out whatever major injustice is out there. What threat must they all unite against or risk humanity’s downfall? Ahhhgghh! The suspense is killing me! What do they do? Well…they calmly sit at the table on the cover and just reminisce on old cases they worked on while they wait for tardy Johnny Thunder to bumble his way to the meeting. Wait…what? They don’t unite their special abilities against anyone? This is just them shooting the breeze!? Well, fortunately their stories are illustrated, so we’re getting eight short stories. But…still, this is not quite what we the readers are led to believe and anticipate from the cover.

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It’s not that the comic itself is bad, we got the Flash, Green Lantern, the Sandman, Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, Doctor Fate, Hourman, the Spectre, and the Atom all in one magazine. But the way that they are used is a little bit of a letdown in that this is the kind of storytelling that we the audience are used to. And while it’s an understandable incentive on the part of the publisher to play it safe, it presents a fearfulness to play big (which is never good for a superhero comic). So it’s a great cover, but the story inside doesn’t live up to the promise of what happens when the greatest superheroes unite together. We aren’t even treated to how all these characters met. They’re just there. But even if the story inside didn’t live up to the hype, this was the first time that a bunch of superheroes gathered together to form a team. But not just any old team, the big leagues. And by looking at it you feel like you’re looking in on something that’s secret, amazing, exclusive, organized, and ready to handle whatever challenges fate would lie on their doorstep.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics.  Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.

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