Justice Society of America (1992-93)
Written by Len Strazewski
Art by Mike Parobeck & Mike Machlan
Comics about youth are very popular at the moment. There are your old standards like Teen Titans and newer titles like Runaways, Generation X, Champions, and more. As a kid, I felt myself drawn more to the past titles and characters. I loved the books that introduced me characters that have been around for decades but never got the spotlight. It was no surprise that when I saw issue 2 of this short run on the racks at Kroger, I snatched it up without a second thought. Not until now have I been able to go back and re-read the all 10 issues of the run and fall back in love with these classic characters.
The Justice Society of America was DC Comics first round up of all its top tier characters, doing so in 1941. The roster here is composed of The Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat, The Atom, Johnny Thunder, and Dr. Mid-Nite. In supporting, roles are Hourman, Sandman, Johnny Quick, Starman, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl. This series was the follow up to a mini-series that worked to return these characters from the editorial limbo they’d been exiled to post-Crisis. The series even opens with a baseball stadium celebration where all of Metropolis comes out to welcome the heroes home. This celebration, of course, becomes a battle with a monster who emerges from the ground and in turn, this leads into the first story arc of the series.
Writer Len Strazewski doesn’t shy away from highlighting how weak these characters are. Fictionally, magic is used to age them to their fifties, though they should be in their seventies. Even at this age, they feel their bones ache and are susceptible to the injuries and ailments we all are. Sandman has a heart attack in the first issues and remains in a wheelchair for the rest of the series. Hourman gained his powers through using the chemical Miralco and his son, who became the second Hourman, has cancer from using it as well. Hourman refuses to dose anymore for fear he will end up in the same boat.
Beyond aging, they also have relationship issues that come with the combination of so many years and the lifestyles they lead. Johnny Chambers aka Johnny Quick became obsessed with the formula he would recite that activated his powers and developed an entire line of motivational products behind it. This caused stress with his wife, Libby Lawrence aka Liberty Belle who wanted them to settle down and raise their daughter, Jesse. When the series takes place, Johnny is a relatively sad character, pushing his motivational program and apparently still feeling the aftermath of his marriage’s collapse.
The highlight of this run is without a doubt are Mike Parobeck’s pencils. Tragically, Parobeck passed away due to complications with diabetes. And with his death, we lost one of the most beautiful artists in the medium. He’s likely known for his work on the Batman: Animated Series comic book, but this is a true work of love from him. Characters feel fluid and emotions are expressed effortlessly. The stories actually lack in a couple arcs, and it is Parobeck’s art that keeps the series feeling alive and hooks you in.
Sadly, as DC Comics has been collecting the various JSA titles, this one appears to have been left off the list for trades. It is a pretty important series in my opinion because these characters had been shelved for a good decade. This short-lived title brought them back into the DC Universe with such joy and adventures that it shouldn’t be forgotten.