Now it can be told: this is, in fact, the last “Grumpy Old Fan” column here at Blog@Newsarama.
So … happy Thanksgiving?
Actually, I had been working on a couple of things for this week and the next. One was a “modern superhero canon” piece centered around JLA/Avengers. Another essay postulated that there really is no DC Universe, just a loose confederation of franchises held together by Justice League of America.
However, since this won’t be the last you see of me on the Interwebs, I think we can hold off for a while. Besides, it is Thanksgiving, and I’ve been a little crabby towards DC lately. Time for some happy talk.
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Probably my favorite comic book growing up was Justice League of America, written by various people (including Steve Englehart and, for a long time, Gerry Conway) but pencilled almost inevitably by Dick Dillin, inked more often than not by Frank McLaughlin, and edited by Julius Schwartz. I remember fondly even the goofy stories like “Under The Moons Of Earth” and “The Fiend With Five Faces” (which actually appeared back-to-back in issues #155-56, June-July 1978), because the book always had a certain air of professionalism. Here was a rotating cast of super-people, getting together every month with their meetings and monitor duties and cool satellite headquarters, and saving the world.
Dillin and McLaughlin made a great team, too. Looking at Dillin’s early work on the title from the late 1960s and early ‘70s, when he was inked by Sid Greene or Joe Giella, it’s obvious that McLaughlin’s inks had a strong effect. McLaughlin’s lines were thinner than his predecessors, making Dillin’s figures bright, clean, and crisp. Together they produced dynamic sequences which, at least to me, have aged rather well.
Justice League was probably a gateway book for me. I can remember early issues of The Flash, Action Comics, and Batman, but JLA reinforced them all. It was one-stop shopping, with a lot of standalone stories and multi-issue arcs with each part feeling overstuffed. It led me into most of the company’s superhero books, and thus laid the foundation for today’s (much) older fan.
Still, there was a lot at DC I didn’t read. Granted, it was the mid-1970s, when DC was canceling titles left and right, so there wasn’t a lot to read; but when I got back into comics in 1985 or so, and especially when I was able to afford an unhealthy amount of back issues, I wanted to catch up on what I’d missed. Soon I was putting together extended runs of Green Lantern and Fantastic Four and looking for that one last issue of Thriller or Camelot 3000.
In the meantime, though, I settled into that now-familiar routine, and through it started adding to the Vast Comics Library in earnest. (See, it’s easy to sound like an expert when you’ve been reading these things for the better part of twenty-five years.) Nevertheless, I can still remember when there were some weeks I didn’t buy any comics (probably Ship Week #3, for the most part) and some weeks I just bought a couple. I don’t find myself feeling nostalgic for particular stories, issues, or even creative teams, as much as I do for those particular times in my life when buying comics wasn’t so much of an obligation. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though — I like the things I buy, I buy the things I like, and I drop what isn’t working.
A bigger market for obscura has also made it easier to catch up on those Silver and Bronze Age books about which I’m still curious. (Along those lines, it continues to amaze me that DC collected the Super-Sons stories.) Last weekend I read the Demon Omnibus, and the weekend before that I finished up (re)reading the Fourth World hardcovers. I’ve been getting random issues of Batman Family; not just because you never know what will pop up in Trinity, but because I’m curious to see if they hold up as well. (In fact, there’s a lot more Michael Golden artwork than I remembered.) Next up may be the Dollar Comics issues of Superman Family, again to see what DC was doing with Lois and Jimmy after cancelling their solo books. After that, who knows? I don’t have the original (short-lived) Firestorm issues, and I’m missing quite a few of ‘Stormy’s
backup stories from Flash.
The difference these days is that I try to look at these old comics with a greater appreciation for the craft which went into them, while not losing sight of the high concept which drew me to them in the first place. Right now I’m in the middle of Man Of Rock, Bill Schelly’s fine biography of Joe Kubert; and I’m looking forward to reading the new Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock volume in light of what I’ve learned. If this column has taught me nothing else, it’s that comics are more than just “here’s what happened.”
Writing this column every week has also helped open my eyes to the potential contained even within today’s corporately-owned superhero comics. I’m hopeful that the coming years see DC break away from the standard 32-page periodical so that its professionals can experiment with different formats and expand their storytelling possibilities. I’m also hopeful that the company will continue to nurture new characters and new creators (and not just by putting new faces on “legacy” names, either).
Finally, I’d like to think that while DC recognizes us old folks who are still waiting for the next Justice League Archives, it won’t pander to us so blatantly. I’ve got over thirty years’ worth of comics to read. It won’t bother me if I miss a few Wednesdays.
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Just a few acknowledgments before wrapping everything up:
I’ve had a great time being Blog@Newsarama’s “DC Guru,” and I will be eternally grateful to Alex Segura Jr. for recruiting me to its predecessor, The Great Curve. I’m also thankful to Matt Brady for giving me a couple of shots at the main Newsarama page.
I’m thankful to all of you readers, and especially all of the commenters. Knowing I’d have to answer to you has helped keep me honest. There have also been a lot fewer “you are a total idiot” comments than I expected, which in hindsight has been a pleasant surprise.
Tune in Friday for the last set of Trinity annotations on this site. They will continue elsewhere.
As JK said in his announcement, this isn’t really goodbye, so …
See you soon!