Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blog for great Justice.

I was a huge fan of the Justice League of America in the old days.

Okay, not that old---that issue of The Brave and the Bold, which was the first comic to feature the Justice League, goes back to 1960; your man Fred was not born yet. Although when I got to collecting later in life I did buy a lot of the 1960s JLAs. Interesting to note that DC's two big powerhouses, Batman and Superman, were seldom seen on the covers in the early years of the book, even though they were members of the club. The editors of the Batman and Superman titles didn't want to lose sales to JLA, so they asked that their guys be kept off or kept small on the JLA cover.

Anyway, when I got the iBooks app I got a free download, and being a retired dork who sold his comics years ago, I almost resisted the temptation to see the new iteration of the JL (no more A---they'll justice you wherever you go). But I gave in.

A lot of comics readers like to make fun of the old Silver Age DC books, and it's true that they were written for children, and also that under the Comics Code Authority rules there was a lot of dopiness in the comics. And, obviously, comic art style was less concerned with anatomical correctness in those days, and the authors less concerned with character development. But most of the time the comics were non-goofy. The Justice League of America faced serious threats. Starro, pictured above, was a big starfish, yes, but he was a perfect 1950's-era movie monster of the type Jack Kirby was cranking out for Marvel at the time, threatening on his own as a big bastard but also capable of spawning gazillions of starfish that would latch on to humans and control their minds.

The new Justice League book I downloaded, part of DC's 2011 "New 52" reboot, was in some regards better than I thought it would be. The characters are interesting. Wonder Woman, newly arrived from Paradise Island, is an alien to the human world, charming and lethal as a Greek mythological hero would be. Green Lantern's as cocky as a test pilot; the Flash (Barry Allen not dead anymore!) is a law-and-order guy at heart. Batman, of course, kicks butt, even though the others can't believe he does it without superpowers. And Superman is still the baddest boy in town.

But the irony is that the 1960 book, which was aimed at children, had some grown-ups in it; the new book does not. Comics today are supposedly aimed at adults, but the characters in them all seem to act more like surly fifteen-year-olds. In this first installment, the heroes spend a lot of time posing and physically assaulting one another. The military is after these new vigilantes, and has decided to shoot first and not bother with questions ever. The only people destroying more property than the military are the heroes. The villains are barely evident in this issue. Batman is the closest thing to a mature individual here---maybe he's seventeen.

My experience with policemen and our military is that those who actually work in dangerous situations do not spend their time in pissing contests, flexing their muscles, treating civilians like dirt. That's what movie cops and movie soldiers do. The real ones behave more like the original JLA, making personal issues invisible to deal with threats.

I developed some of these themes in my book Cobalt Agonistes, but I wrote with great affection. I spent an awful lot of my formative years and beyond reading comic books, and not because I was doing sociological research. It was because they were fun, they were escapism, and probably because I wanted to smash something. If I had discovered modern comics as a teen, I would have loved them, even with all the sex and soap opera stuff that goes on. Maybe especially the sex.

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