Friday, September 23, 2011

Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1

It's sort of interesting that my last comics-themed entry discussed my short-lived comics blog, because the period when it was most active was when the solicitation for Justice Society Volume 1 generated a lot of personal excitement for me. That book, coupled with Justice Society Volume 2, collects one of the touchstone runs of my comic collecting life - the 1970s All-Star Comics and its continuation from the pages of Adventure Comics. I love these comics so much, I even sent copies of the books to Kabuki Katze. I have been meaning to write something about them here eventually, and this entry will probably be the first of a few you'll be seeing.

DC Comics has seen fit to repackage the material as Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1, which collects all the comics from the two trade paperbacks in one thick B&W book printed on newsprint. Because I am more obsessive about this particular series than most, I bought it. Besides, it gives me the opportunity to revisit these stories and discuss the merits of the collection for those considering buying it.

The following is my review of the technical aspects of this book. It addresses some of the shortcomings of the trade paperbacks from a collector's standpoint. From a READER standpoint, none of these things will detract from the experience.


Basically, this is a B&W version of the two trades, so if you go into it with that attitude, it works well enough. The art still looks sharp sans color. The weaknesses of the trades are still present (credits removed from the first half's tales, editorial notes altered or removed altogether, two recap pages dropped from an Adventure Comics tale), but this did not surprise me. Well, considering what IS present, the missing recap pages are a little bit of a surprise. More on that in a bit.

Now, if you are worried about the credits (perfectly valid), they are on the contents pages. That's a huge improvement over the trades, where they had to add a separate page to Volume 2. What interested me most about this book were the covers - the one on the front and the ones inside.

1) Contrary to the solicitations (and promo images), the cover is not one by Brian Bolland. Instead, it's a recolored version of All-Star Comics #74. I much prefer this choice, as it's more indicative of the contents and is one of my personal "icon" covers. It is the image that leads off that post. Neither of the Bolland covers appear.

2) Whoever colored Vol. 1 other than Drew Moore (I distinctly recall it was not Drew himself) chose to alter the colors on certain covers, whether by accident or design. I remember in particular the cover to #62 seemed to drop portions of the blurb due to the coloring blending into the background. Thankfully, this is not an issue here.

3) The biggest surprise of the book for me was the inclusion of the covers to Adventure Comics #461, #462, and #463! Well, the front covers anyway. The back cover to #461 was already in the trades, and it's included here, too. However, the back portion of the wraparound cover to #463 is not included (perhaps deliberately - no JSA). Neither are the covers to #464 (front or back), #465, or #466 included. None of these are particularly JSA-centric. If I remember rightly, the one that had everyone most up in arms was #462 and its shocking and memorable cover.

There you go. If you didn't buy the trades, this is pretty much the same presentation at a cheaper price in B&W on newsprint. It might be more attractive if you're on the fence. If you DO have the trades, I've listed the only significant differences I noted. I doubt they will influence anyone to buy, but you never know.

Unless you are like me, and need BOTH versions.


  1. I should have my copy next week. Having only thumbed through the first volume, I'm looking forward to actually being able to sit down and come to grips with them.

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of these stories, especially since they are not as much a part of your experience as they were mine. Because despite how much I love them, I am objective enough to see they aren't perfect. I hesitate to call the JSA run "brilliant", but I think it works pretty well in the context of the times. The relative stability of the creative teams compared to the surrounding madness is probably a plus.

    For fun, please note the issues where Keith Giffen is the penciller. The figures look exactly like inker Wally Wood's work, but the layouts are pure Giffen.

  3. I'll do a review on the Prattle if I get some time. I kinda like the JSA/Earth-2 stuff more when it's a kind of petri dish that allows you to advance DC continuity in an interesting offshoot direction without so much puffery about The Enduring Legacy Of The JSA and all that bullshit that comes out of Alex Ross' mouth whenever someone breathed the word "JSA"

    I just dug on the idea that there was an alternate DCU wherein you had characters inherit the legacies of older characters without necessarily having to take on the names of their progenitor heroes . . .it felt slightly more organic that way.

    Oh, and Bruce Wayne could be the Commissioner of Gotham. I have no idea why that resonates so much, but I got a real kick out of it.

  4. This, right here. Revisiting this run for the umpteenth time, I was struck by how less-than-reverent it was (especially at the outset). That sort of flies in the face of the more recent trend that the JSA is Very Important.

    Well, yes, it is. But SHOW us why, don't just keep telling us about it. Alex Ross is definitely a prime offender, but I'd also offer up "The Justice Society Returns" as the point where it all started. There was a valid reason for doing such a thing, but it has spiraled well out of control.

    I just liked the idea of a different Earth where things went off in their own crazy directions. And yeah, Commissioner Wayne was an INSPIRED idea, presumably from Levitz himself. I wish it had been explored even further.

  5. My initial gut reaction after reading it once is "Man, Gerry Conway has one voice for every character her writes" and "Man, those were some pretty decent, entirely competent late-70's superhero comics which occasionally lapse into interesting plot-psychoses when things get away from them." (see the Master Summoner story arc)

    I think which I write these up, I'll try to explain my theory of when the JSA became a detriment instead of an asset. The idea of the Greatest Generation as superheroes is awesome, provided you don't favour one over the other. The JSA as ossified legends are not interesting. The JSA as the crux of a generational transition of superheroes is very interesting.

  6. It's funny you bring up the Master Summoner, since that was the story that specifically became the tipping point for me in becoming a JSA fan. I'm amazed in looking him up that no one has tried to drag him out of mothballs.

    To borrow wrestling parlance, there was a concerted effort to try to get the JSA over when they began their solo title in the late 90s. There was a lot of resistance to them dating back to the 1980s, because they were "redundant" and seen as textbook examples of DC heroes being "old-fashioned". Never mind that they had a fanbase and could sell comics.

    So I think there were valid reasons to make the JSA seem indispensable, but the execution being what it is, it devolved into this deifying hero worship thing that is off-putting. The irony is that part of the appeal of the JSA was that they were just a regular bunch of super folks that just happened to be first.