Thursday, April 25, 2019


Last week's Spectre writeup had me scurrying into my book pile to pull this long-ignored effort out, one that I didn't especially cozy up to when first purchased way back inna 90s. That probably accounts for the fact that this copy is not all dog-eared and filled with sticky bits keeping pages glued together like way too many books in my personal library are besotted. Surprisingly enough, a good twennysome years later I happen to enjoy this ALL STAR effort as much as I did those old Spectres which probably does prove that perhaps I am regressing back into my pre-pubesprout days when things were still pressure cooker hard on me but hey, I still had those old comic books and tee-vee shows to add more'n just a little release to a stressed out world!

When I was of comic books-as-a-way-of-life reading age (as opposed to records-as-a-way-of-life or locking-oneself-in-the-bathroom-with-a-copy-of-NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC-as-a-way-of-life) I really enjoyed those JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA issues where the heroes at National Periodicals would join hands so-to-speak with the Justice Society of Earth Two in order to fight some cosmic cataclysm that would threaten both worlds. At that time (we're like talkin' age twelve) the Golden Age heroes actually seemed more up my alley not only because they seemed to have retained a flair that had been lost to time, but the fact that those Golden Age sagas weren't so high-minded as the comics were beginning to get. Remember when subjects like the Population Explosion and drug abuse were screaming RELEVANCY form the covers of just about every DC title except THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS? Thankfully that trend didn't last too long, at least until DC began grasping for whatever remained of their dwindling readership by becoming incomprehensibly cutting edge whenever they thought they could get away with it.

Thankfully those old World War II-era comics were geared more towards the suburban slob kinda Saturday Afternoon Barber Shop kids long before they evolved into long-haired flared trousers pseudo-intellectual types, and frankly I was more at home reading about how Hour-Man tackled some gangsters than I was Superman lecturing the Teen Titans about racism. When DC began publishing those 25-cent expanded issues usually filled out with a classic Golden Age story you could bet that I was happier than Elton John at whatever all-boy youth gathering that will come to your mind .Sure I hadda put up with the moral superiority being plopped about, but when I was done with that story at least there was a Golden Age reprint to enjoy.

'n with the Justice Society stories you were gettin' a boffo total of eight heroes in one setting! Talk about real deal meals, and although the big boys at DC, mainly Superman and Batman, weren't anywhere to be seen (because they were part of the National and not Max Gaines' All-American line) they at least get mentioned as being "honorary members" which I guess is cool enough for me. Fortunately for us the All-American heroes were boff enough on their own, what with the likes of the original Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman and Atom* not forgetting Doctor Fate, Hour-Man, the Sandman (back when he wore a suit, hat and cape and was not yet costumed complete with a Robin-esque sidekick) and the Spectre on hand to deal blows to the neer-do-fanablas in sagas that sorta go down a whole lot easier because like, you don't need a scorecard to tell the heroes from the villains like you do with most of today's morally ambiguous entertainment.

In fact. these sagas are good enough that I don't even find myself rah-rahing for the Dictator Powers who are overrunning Ameriga in issue #4! The good guys manage to do their patriotic doody without succumbing to the squeaky clean fly-spec free credo that sure made those Nazi and Japanese nogoods so appealing to me for ages. Even during them dayze of heightened national awareness the schmalz ain't as thick as it could get, so lemme stand up and salute ol' glory for once before I decide to go join the bund of my choice!

Gettin' ahead of myself as usual...first, lemme give you a li'l backdrop regarding these comics. The first ALL STAR Justice Society issue (#3--the first two featured solo sagas by the heroes at hand) isn't really a Justice Society saga per se but the heroes hanging around spinning tales that are delineated by their original creators, chatting it up between the action as if they were in the back room at Max's 'r somethin'! Guest appearances by the original Johnny Thunder and Red Tornado add some comedy relief, and although this issue probably wasn't much diff. 'n the first two ALL STARs it at least was a champing start for what would be a good eight or so year run of DC superhero teamups.

By ish #4 the Society was gettin' into some actual collective work---somewhat. Y'see, although by now they were fighting a focused enemy (in this case the Fifth Columnists who were infecting every aspect of Amerigan life) these heroes were doing it on their own eventually coming to a jointed clampdown on the last few pages after each of 'em uncover a crucial clue to the case which all dribbles down to its logical conclusion. The only read mingling they get into is during the framing of each episode, and while I was hoping to see 'em all goin' gangbusters at once it's nice just to read these old sagas, marvel at the at-times atrocious yet amazing art, and let it sink in without letting my subconscious (or consciousness for that matter) let things like reality get in the way.

The next two issues also fall into the same format, the third one having to do with a crime syndicate and this strange little guy who keeps popping up throughout the action tying the story together sorta like in some early-forties Monogram picture. The final one in this volume is an ever greater hoot where the Society initiates Johnny Thunder (a doofy Jimmy Olsen lookalike down to his suit and bowtie whose power is his ability to summon up a lightning bolt man/genie who grants his wishes for an hour) with a fool's errand which turns violent when some real deal hoodlums unwittingly get in on the set up!

Don't think I'll be springing for any more of these collections (prices have gone up!) but this li'l book'll keep me onna go for quite awhile. It's sure great to see these superheroes operating under forties B-moom pitcher conditions (or sixties space age thrills a la the Justice League)  rather'n schmooze to modern anti-morality like they have for about thirtysome years awlready, and although I've been taking a break from modern day entertainment for the last four or so decades lemme just say that I'm glad I have stuff like this to enjoy myself with (along with years of old tee-vee and radio shows not to mention comics of the newspaper variety) rather than be forced to endure the usual nil that passes for a fun evening in these downright irritating times of ours!

* All of whom were quite different than their more modern Earth One counterparts...heck, the Atom didn't even have any special powers other than super strength, he getting his moniker because he was a rather short sorta guy!


Bill S. said...

I'm bogged down in the middle of a depressing work-week, and what I could use more than anything right now is one of those DC "Adventures of Jerry Lewis" comic books you mentioned.
I have a few of them at home somewhere, but not enough.
Evidently, there were 40 Dean and Jerry comics, and then it went solo Jerry, and there were another 84 ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS comics. As you've pointed out before, DC's celebrity comics lines (Jerry Lewis, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers/Bilko, etc.) are kind of in a permanent limbo--they aren't public domain, and they will never be republished by DC. So they are just out there, inaccessible unless you happen to stumble across one. I can think of no better antidote to boredom and/or stress than Jerry Lewis and Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers comic books.

top_cat_james said...

I recall enjoying the "SIDS" and "black market adoption" multi-issue story arcs in SUGAR AND SPIKE.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Now yer talkin'!