What I thought of Justice League of America #94

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Another crap week for new comics on Comixology, so time to dip into their weekly digital releases of classic comics and The Justice League of America #94 is a little gem of a comic and one that’s a key issue as it continues the revelation of the League of Assassins as a major part of the DC Universe, and who are now a major part of DC’s television adaptations, especially Arrow.

Also this is a big issue for Neal Adams fans as he drew the Deadman (DC superhero who happens to be a ghost that can possess anyone, even Superman or Batman) segments of this issue, with regular JLA artist of the time, Dick Dillin, drawing the rest of the story.

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Dillin is one of the most underrated superhero comics artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Never flashy, never ostentatious but solid, reliable and with great storytelling which sounds like faint praise, but it isn’t. There’s far flashier artists working today who don’t have a tenth of Dillin’s storytelling talent.

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It is however Neal Adams who is the Superstar artist popping up throughout the issue displaying the sort of work that redefined superhero art and broke the mould of endless Jack Kirby clones, though it did gives us years of Neal Adams clones.

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The script by Mike Friedrich is again, good solid superheroics and typical of when DC started to adopt a more Marvel-esque style in writing. It isn’t spectacular, but he handles the archer,Merlyn the Magician well enough as something more than just a typical JLA villain of the time.

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This is a little gem of an issue that acts as a fun wee JLA tale, as well as setting up years, in fact, decades, of Batman stories.

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There’s also a pair of classic Golden Age Sandman and Starman stories which are charming, if somewhat more crude than I remember from reading this issue when I was much younger. Overall this is a classic bit of comics history that clunky in places manages to reflect the changes from the old reliable DC Comics to the new, exciting DC Comics by people like Neal Adams.

What I thought of the Flash #195

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If you’ve read some of my older blogs you’ll realise I love The Flash.Not because he’s only the fastest man alive, but because his adventures were fun, exciting and most of all weird even at a time when DC’s characters were either starting to become Marvelised or exceptionally weird, you’d have The Flash as this island of ultimate weirdness.

The Flash #195 isn’t the weirdest Flash comic ever, it does however have a great Neal Adams cover and an opening page that has the Flash at the Jerry Lewis Telethon signing autographs for Mark Evanier, Peter Sanderson and Irene Vartnanoff. All names that should be familiar to comics fans of a certain age but lets get to the part where the Flash is saved from a gang of thugs by a dog.

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Artist Gil Kane manages to play it straight, so his pencils and the usual crisp and clear pencils Kane put in but complemented by some lovely Murphy Anderson inks the art here is sublime for a throwaway Flash story where The Flash utters these immortal lines…

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Turns out the dog is called Lightning and he’s accused of killing his master, which in Central City means the dog is going to be put to death. At this point the Flash tries to clear the dog’s name and yes, this is actually the plot of this story, really! Of course everything ties up nicely and leads into the second story, this time written by Mike Friedrich, with pencils still by Kane but inks by Vince Colletta who manages the tough job of totally fucking up Kane’s pencils.

It’s a passable wee story but the entire thing is spoiled by Colletta’s clunking cartoony inks which reduce Kane’s sharp pencils to a slurry in places. The one thing to take from this second story is the creeping influence of the style of Marvel Comics as younger writers start moving into writing DC’s titles in the late 60’s, early 70’s.

Mainly though this is a cracking little bit of nostalgia, but dear god, Vinnie Colletta should never have been allowed near Gil Kane’s pencils……

Man of Steel-What You Might Like to Know About Superman

The new Superman film, Man of Steel is out in the UK this week amid a huge amount of publicity and fuss. It looks like it might even be a bit above the usual American summer blockbuster. It might even be a very good film and it’s got good people in front and behind the camera. It is however an an enormous fuck you to the creators of Superman and their family who have been fighting for as long as Superman has existing to get a fair share of the billions upon billions their creation has made for it’s corporate owners for over seven decades.

 

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first published in 1938. You can see the pair discuss their creation of Superman here. The media are falling over themselves to provide studies of the myth and meaning of Superman over the last 75 years, but few if any will mention how Siegel and Shuster were shafted  over the creative rights of Superman.

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I didn’t know anything of this as a kid reading comics, not until I read in a fanzine about Neal Adams fighting for Siegal and Shuster to get due credit for Superman in the 1970’s and the story of the messy history between DC (and the companies before it became DC Comics) is in this excellent article here. Siegel struggled to make a living in comics for years, and there’s a mention ins Sean Howe’s excellent Marvel Comics: The Untold Story about how Stan Lee felt sorry for Siegel in the 1960’s when he was struggling for work, so gave him whatever job he could at Marvel but because his writing style didn’t fit into the Marvel style of the time this meant menial office jobs. The man who was partly responsible for the boom in superheroes and for creating employment for people at Marvel and DC was reduced to struggling for work and favours from friends like Lee. Siegel even worked for IPC’s line of boy’s adventure comics and created The Spider which appeared in Lion, which was a strip I adored as a kid.

 

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In 1975 DC agreed to pay Siegel and Shuster $20,000 for the rest of their lives. At that point, they’d made billions from Superman, and even then this amount was only agreed after the work of people like Neal Adams. This was not something DC out of the goodness of their heart.

By the time of their deaths the dispute still hadn’t been settled, and carried on to their heirs,  who continued to fight for what was a fair share of their creation as the sons and daughters of shareholders made money from Superman but the family of the men who created him didn’t. However due to US copyright law, the rights would revert to Siegel and Shuster’s families, and that would include the film rights as well. Early last year, DC’s parent company Warner Brothers won, which saw Man of Steel go quickly into production to ensure the film rights stayed with Warner’s .

So when you settle down to watch Man of Steel in your comfy chair in the cinema have a wee thought about the creators and their families and wonder why the media is talking about the heroic myth of Superman, but don’t feel it’s important to mention what happened to Siegel and Shuster? I’d imagine because it probably shows the myth up to be just that, a myth.

Siegel and Shuster deserved better. Their heirs deserve better. It would be nice if one journalist, or one person connected with the film mentioned this rather than repeat the same story which marginalises the creators and their plight into a footnote of a larger story rather than being something that taints the myth.