Sunday, October 9, 2011

There Were Seven Soldiers of Victory

The Seven Soldiers of Victory don't get a lot of respect compared to their Golden Age contemporaries in the Justice Society of America. That largely stems from the fact that the JSA was the first super team, while the Soldiers were more of a "me too" operation that couldn't even count (they had eight heroes show up every issue) or decide on a name (paging the Law's Legionnaires). There's also the little matter that they are the superhero group equivalent of the Village People, with the Knight, the Cowboy, the Archers, and such. So the meme developed over the years that the Seven Soldiers of Victory were second-rate, and this accepted wisdom even found its way into at least one DC "Greatest Stories" collection (was it the Team-Ups or Golden Age?) which dismissed their entire run out of hand.

After putting together a set of all three Archives of the stories from the pages of Leading Comics, I have to add my voice to the collective that feels this is an undeserved reputation. Yes, the Soldiers lack the power levels and fame of the JSA (Green Arrow is the most famous member). No, I don't think these stories represent some kind of watershed moment for the comics medium. HOWEVER, there is a lot of good (and occasionally great) artwork, and several of the stories turn out to be exceptionally clever.

For example, in "The Treasure That Time Forgot", the usually cordial Soldiers end up fighting among themselves. This sort of superhero battle through misunderstanding become commonplace with Stan Lee and Marvel Comics in the 1960s, but it was practically unheard of among the more straightforward mystery men of the Golden Age. I swear, the darn story is like a blueprint, and I'd almost be half-inclined to wonder if Lee had read it (not that he would remember if he had).

There's also the little matter of "King of the Hundred Isles", in which the various heroes get paired off with different partners than usual, and in one case, two sidekicks get paired off together. Given the dynamic of the Soldiers (three of the eight are sidekicks), it's an ingenious way to wring a new story idea out of what had by then been established as a set formula. Given the nature of these sort of books (promoting features in other anthology titles), I'm actually surprised they got with it at all.

So yeah, the Seven Soldiers of Victory turned out to be much better than advertised when you take the time to read the stories. Who knew?


  1. I'm a huge fan of the 7 Soldiers... Very cool sets of heroes! After reading two of the different series, I think the Manhattan Guardian is my favorite. :)

  2. If I knew something cheap to point you in the direction of the originals, I would. One of these days...