[JSA Book Club]Week 11: The World on Fire [7/18-7/31]

Hello and once again welcome to another session of the JSA Book Club. This week we leave behind All Star Comics for a bit and instead move on to All Star Squadron just to get a feel for it.

I call this meeting of the JSABC to order:

Roll Call

Club Leaders

@JasonTodd428 & @Aurora

Standing Members

AggressiveIntellectual219, bigblock66, Brenticus_Rex, CassTheStreet, CrazyQuilt, Daffern, december360, dj.ganon, Don-El, frankie.lacy79, Frostbite30, ganaoque, harrist, HombreDeMaiz, hotstufflouie, jacksonjakebova.2, Jay_Kay, Jflow, jlevin, justicesocietyfan, lunalane, mbpbinder, _meegs, Meisaj, mgeiler, Midnitehour, MisfitCMJ, ,msgtv, PaintEater, ProActress2O, ralphsix, Ravenrifft, Reaganfan78, Remember5NovEveyHammond, rlynchfamily, rspezzano, rm, TheCosmicMoth, TK52, TurokSonOfStone
waddup, ZacharyLee1995

A Bit of History

  • All Star Squadron (the team) first appeared in a special insert preview within the pages of Justice League of America #193 in August 1981. For those that may not know this already insert previews were 16-page comic book stories inserted into issues of existing DC Comics series to promote new series usually debuting the next month. A very cool idea wouldn’t you say? It’s really unfortunate that that insert is not digitized. I would have liked to have read it.

  • All Star Squadron #1 was released in September 1981. The book ran for 67 issues plus three annuals. It ended in March of 1987.

  • According to Roy Thomas DC wanted comic book that told tales of the Justice Society of America after All Star Comics ended in 1979. All Star Squadron was that book.

  • Rather than setting the book in the modern era, Thomas chose a WWII setting for All Star Squadron. The book was also set on Earth Two to accommodate the setting.

  • The cast of characters here are drawn from both DC and the recently (at the time) acquired Quality Comics. Thomas also decided to concentrate on promising characters who had either been ignored or downplayed rather than the Earth Two counterparts of the main Earth’s heroes. (Sounds familiar…Earth 2 anyone?)

Let’s move on now to the actual issues shall we?

This Week’s Issues

* ALL STAR SQUADRON # 1-6

For Discussion

  1. What do you think of the WWII setting for this title? Would you have rather had the writer set it in the modern era of the day instead or was this a perfect choice for the team?

  2. Who was your favorite team member here?

  3. Hawkman, Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite are the only JSAers to not get captured by Per Degaton’s minions. How did feel about this and the fact that the other JSAers were easily taken down?

  4. What did you think of the villains in these issues and who was your favorite and why?

  5. Who do you feel was a stand out character here? Explain why they stood out to you.

  6. As Roy Thomas put it, DC management gave him “a chance to write a return of the JSA.”

Do you feel he is doing exactly that in these issues or is this book something else entirely?

And that’s all for this week folks. Stay safe out there and hope to see you back in August.

Hit the link to join the JSA BOOK CLUB.

  • On tap for next month more adventures featuring Infinity, Inc and then another batch of JLA/JSA crossovers. Hope to see you all there
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Thanks for posting! Bookmarked, timer on.

Too bad you told me about Justice League 193 having an insert. I have a comic that contains the first appearance of Blue Devil in an insert (also not digitized), so now I’m looking at the pricing for this. Hmmm…$4.80 on a certain Lone Star site…

Sorry about that @Don-El. :grin:

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All Star Squadron #1, set in 1941. What a fun read, for lots of reasons. First, I enjoy the use of all the “second banana” often secondary characters as now the prmary heroes and focus. There is some risk much like with the powered down Infinity Inc group, but my remembrance is that this older team of
lesser known heroes worked very well for compelling storylines. Also, especially at the time, I really really liked Rick Buckler’s art and renditions of newly-introduced characters back in the 70s and 80s of yore. I have examples to follow.

  1. I very much like the WWII setting, especially with this less powerful group of heroes. The obvious question in hindsight with Superman / Wonder Woman / Spectre / Flash / Johnny Thunder of the time is: why didn’t they use their off the charts power set to just stop the war from the get go. But with these less powerful folks, we don’t think about that hole in the fictional story fabric.

  2. I like several of the “adults” here, but for some reason that crazy formula-chanting Johnny Quick is fun to read, and I like the style of the suit etc. The whole concept of Liberty Belle is fun too. We lived in the Philly area for around 12 years back in the late 70s / through the 80s, and saw the meaning-laden real deal cracked liberty bell up close (plus, I was purchasing and reading these in the same era of my life at places like Fat Jack’s Comicrypt).

  3. Concerning the capture of the big dogs of the JSA as WWII begins, not only is it a clever literary device to allow the second stringers to shine, but if I were power mad Degatron, I would for sure make the same play: take out the big guns, and now you can run amok.

Scenes from issue 1 with comments (maybe we should do a one shot version of JSA club, lol):

You are from the far-flung future of 1947 you say, Degatron? OOOOOOOOOOOO

I do like this Robotman and his later story as I recall even though I also am a big Doom Patrol Robotman guy too, both are heroic, sad, and very human and relateable. In a way, all of us are trapped in our casings that we didn’t choose…

“This town’s getting crazier every day”…come back in about 68 to 70 years later man if you think this is crazy…
.

I mentioned I love when that super speed formula is chanted, but as someone who once taught math up to Pre Calculus for a while, I also freely admit that whoever came up with the formula was also someone who slept through their Algebra classes…

1595177487761

A very heroic, inspiring moment here IMO:

Part of my being a fan of All-Star Squadron is based on having President Franklin D. Roosevelt show up as their boss. They report to him, how cool is that and more realistic than having them answer to no one in a time of war and national crisis?

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Liberty Belle recharging the fragment of the liberty bell she carries in her belt by long distance phone call. Let me tell you, back in the day, those calls could get expensive if you didn’t carefully keep track of the time.

“The Battle of San Francisco”…so far, at least since the very early 1900s, no foreign invader has dared touch our soil…I hope that remains true through the current world-wide crisis.

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I really liked that about this as well. Then again I tend to gravitate toward secondary characters anyway. It was a risky move to do so although it would probably be an even more risky on these days in my opinion.

I really liked the art as well.

I think it was a good choice on Thomas’s part. I also feel a connection to that period of history. I had three great uncles who fought in WWII and my grandma opened her home to all of their children and wives while their husbands and fathers were off to war.

Quite true.

Liberty Belle and Plastic Man were my favorite here. I also liked seeing Shining Knight. Sir Justin has always been a favorite of mine.

I liked the use of that device. It’s also what Robinson used at the beginning of Earth 2 only the players were different. The Trinity was taken out by Steppenwolf.

I was expecting him to say he was from further in the future myself. Or from another Earth at the very least.

I liked him too.

I’m not at all good with math but I did think something was odd with that formula. Maybe we should just call it “comic book algebra” and leave it at that. There is “comic book science” after all. :stuck_out_tongue:

In mine too.

You can say that again. I liked the touch of realism here. I know it’s a comic book and a work of fiction but a little realism doesn’t detract from that. I think there is room in comics for both the fantastical, such as a man being able to fly, and a bit realism such as this.

I remember. I also remember when there was a separate charge on my phone bill for long distance calls and when there was no internet. I didn’t even seen a personal computer until I was a sophomore in high school.

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I feel the need to preface my remarks by stating unequivocally that in 40+ years of being a DC Comics avid reader, All Star Squadron is not only my favorite series they ever produced but also a more elegant series for a more civilized age.
I picked up issue no. 5 at a local newsagent as a 14 year old comic book geek on the old spinning rack you would see in drugstores and the like.
I have always been a History enthusiast even so far as to get a B.A. in History from the University of Iowa in 1991.
I was instantly hooked by the exquisite and painstaking period detail Roy, Rich Buckner, and the fantastic Jerry Ordway and the rest of the illustrators maintained.
I went to my local comic book shoppe and bought the back issues 1-4 and stayed with the series until it wrapped up, or was summarily and short-sightedly cancelled by DC, depending upon your point of view.
I opened up the box the series is stored in along with the complete runs of Infinity Inc, The Young All Stars, and the issue of Justice League with the 16 page preview issue this afternoon and read 1-6 again feeling and smelling the nostalgia of the now yellowing pages.
All Star Squadron is a wondrous beauty to behold in its simplicity and the freedom it has to take dramatic licence with the events of Dec.7 1941 and intermingle them with the costumed heroes who had emerged to fight crime on Earth-Two.
You devise a plausible method by which the most powerful members of the Justice Society have been defeated by their future foes so they won’t know how to defend themselves and have them unconscious in an underground volcanic chamber.
You leave free the charter members of the Justice Society who now have the chance to shine and prove themselves in The Atom, Hawkman, and then newer member Doctor Midnite who are the ones I always identified with as they are ordinary average men who, during the nation’s greatest peril during homefront WWII brought only their peak athleticism augmented by scientific technology and medieval weaponry.
Give them a convenient F.B.I liason in the form of Plastic-Man and then add supporting characters from other books published at the time.
Jonny Quick, Liberty Belle, The Shining Knight, Dannette Reilly who would take up the mantle of Firebrand to honour her brother killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Jonny Chambers and Libby Lawrence had instant chemistry both in their civilian reporting roles and as costumed heroes.

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The initial Per Degaton storyline is what sparked and captivated me from that early age to read and watch as many stories of time travel and temporal paradoxes in both print and film/tv so that three decades on from reading those first issues of All Star Squadron I would write and self-publish two novels of time travel and temporal paradoxes of my own.

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I read this series probably for the first time in 2013/14. I was in love with idea of it being set in the 40’s on Earth 2. Reading it then and seeing how it was affected after Crisis, I could finally understand the frustration of fans who hated the ideas and concepts of anything that altered the rich history DC had. I didn’t start reading comics until the mid 90’s so there was so much I hadn’t read. I’m currently re-reading issue 3 and absolutely adore this series.

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I am so pleased to hear that you are enjoying the series immensely and am gratified that the simplicity of the storytelling can find an audience in a time where every story has to be dark and brooding bordering on the nihilistic.

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I was one fan who was frustrated by the changes Crisis caused. The thing I hated most was the loss of the multiverse. I felt like the DCU suddenly became very overcrowded back then.

That’s why I like this series and why a lot of older material appeals to me personally.

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COIE as a contained series is a masterpiece of epic storytelling as, unlike so many gimmicky storylines designed solely to boost flagging sales of a title, both Supergirl and The Flash stayed dead for decades but I digress…
I have issues, pardon the pun, with the re-writing of certain character’s origin stories now that their parents never existed.
It was nonsensical what they set about doing with Lyta Trevor(Fury in Infinity Inc) and then the Fury who was with The Young All Stars.

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I had a lot of issues with COIE. The one you mention above was one. I also took issue with some of the other re-writings of characters histories that occured and with other characters, such as the Helena Wayne version of Huntress, being sent off to limbo. That last really angered me at the time.

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The twelve issues of COIE in themselves I will always regard as a masterpiece of epic storytelling as DC had never attempted an ambitious all-encompassing narrative like that before.
What i have always have had problems with nearly 40 years later is all of the aftermath and fallout and rewriting ret-coning revisionist complexity which they are still making the same mistakes with today.
How many bloody times can they rewrite the origins of characters, anyway?

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I finally finished my reread of 1-6.

I’ve got to say that All-Star Squadron is one of my all time favorite series. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it often, the run from issue #27-#37 is in my humble opinion the best run of pure super-hero comics I’ve ever read.

To the discussion questions:

  1. I love the WWII setting and think it sets the series apart. You got to see the heroes in their prime, when they’re older in JLA/JSA crossovers, plus the detail Thomas goes into to make everything fit both in terms of world history but also comics history is an achievement that is underappreciated.

  2. This is always a tough question, because there are so many fantastic characters and Thomas has a knack of writing them all well and giving them strong individual personalities. Old school JSA, I’ve always been drawn to the Spectre and Dr. Fate. I love them to this day and the costume designs excite me every time I see them. For “newer” (to me at the time) characters, I loved Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. I loved how their relationship unfolded. I was very bitter with how they were written in later Flash comics where they had divorced and were estranged.

  3. I’m insufferably a meta guy, so a lot of times I’m just going to see the storytelling mechanics of something like this instead of looking at it in terms of the internal story. You have to clear out Supes and Bats because DC isn’t going to let you do but so much with even a past Earth 2 version and they’re going to overshadow the rest of your cast. They were taken out way too easily by some lesser foes. It’s in line with a lot of the storytelling at the time when almost all of a team is mind-controlled or taken captive and only a few are left active. You kind of let it go so the story can play out.

  4. Seriously mixed bag of villains. Wotan’s really the standout as far as power goes. Don’t tell anyone, but I never cared much for Per Degaton. I think he’s a wannabe Hitler and the idea that he keeps forgetting his attempts at world domination and continues to reverting back to a lab assistant lackey doesn’t quite work for me. Solomon Grundy is the one that stands out for me. I just like Grundy. Always liked the design and the rhyme and how he’s played out in the comics. And this particular use of him demonstrated Thomas’s strengths in placing a character in the context of the stories he would have appeared in historically and what characters he’s had a history with. It’s masterful and I think Grundy in this storyline is a perfect example of those skills.

  5. I think Hawkman really shines. He’s chairman, so I guess it makes sense, but I think he really comes across as a major player in both the JSA and A-SS in a way that people may not have expected if they came into this series without knowing a lot of the history of the E2 Hawks. Otherwise, I think everybody has great little moments that introduce their personalities and potential. It is some incredible storytelling that shows Thomas had a good feel not just for the characters, but for what he wanted to do with the characters over the long haul.

  6. I think I’ve heaped enough praise on Thomas so far to reveal my thoughts to this question. He hit it out of the park, in my opinion. He firmly established what he was trying to do with the comics and ushered in a great era for the JSA/All-Stars.

Buckler’s art is tremendous. Perfect for the title and the era.

This is one of those comics that could really use the letters pages included. So much history and interesting information was included in those for this title, it’s a shame to miss out on that.

I did cringe at the racial slur that was used numerous times. It was historically accurate and you can hear it or it’s similar anti-Japanese slur in some old-time radio broadcasts, but it was distracting with this read and I doubt Thomas would have included it had he wrote it thirty-five years later.

I really loved what Thomas did with Plastic Man and Phantom Lady. I especially think it’s clever having Plas be the FBI liason.

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Guess that sounded as if I thought COIE was a bad story, which is not what I meant to imply there. I agree that the fallout was the problem or rather how some aspects were handled.

As many times as necessary! :stuck_out_tongue:

But seriously they need to stop messing with the origins of characters unless someone want to write a story set on another Earth or some sort of Elseworlds series.

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All the detail that Thomas put into this really makes this feel authentic to the 1940s and I really enjoy books that are able to pull off a historical settings well like was done here. That he was able to do so AND remain true to comic history was a really amazing thing both then and reading this series again now.

Grundy is one of my favorites as well. I’ve always liked him and he really fascinates me.

I agree. The E2 Hawks are my favorites so I was glad to see Hawkman getting a chance to shine here.

I agree with you there @dave_worrell.

I was disappointed about that too since I really like reading the letter pages of comics anyway. Wish they would digitize them but I suppose there is a legal reason behind why they don’t.

An old literature professor of mine always started his lectures with the reminder that the books we were covering were all products of the time they were written in. I didn’t care for the racial slurs either but I think the same applies here. Having said that though I have to agree with you that Thomas probably wouldn’t have used them these days.

Plas was great here and I loved that he was the FBI liason. I also really loved Phantom Lady here.

Thomas really is one of the greats.

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I didn’t mean to be defensive but I have strong feelings for those formative titles of my teenage years in the 1980’s.
The aftermath of COIE muddied the waters even more than they were beforehand to the point now that any continuity characters once had with their past are irrelevant.

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I do think some of the biggest damage came after Crisis rather than because of it. Man of Steel, in particular, changed so much and made it that much harder to reconcile the post-Crisis world. But even beyond that, Perez’s Wonder Woman and Year One did much the same, with the new WW stuff turning Donna Troy’s story into a nightmare and bleeding over into the JLA origin. Then Hawkworld comes in a couple years later and they tried to reconcile that history for almost twenty years without success.

Crisis definitely had major ramifications and obliterated what Thomas was doing with the Earth 2 heroes, but a lot of the biggest problems came afterwards.

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I am eager to see what DC does now Post Doomsday Clock with the JSA and ensemble.

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Because of work I’ve been out of the loop @Don-El. Has anything been said on that front?