Re-reading ‘World’s Finest’ #258, the comic that got Jason Aaron into world-building

Tom Bondurant dives into a classic issue of DC’s ‘Dollar Comics’ line that helped inspire the architect of Marvel’s ‘Heroes Reborn’ event.

As part of our round-robin Heroes Reborn [2021] coverage, I learned that writer Jason Aaron’s first superhero comic book was August-September 1979’s World’s Finest Comics #258. Back then it was part of DC’s “Dollar Comics” line, boasting 68 pages’ and five features’ worth of colorful characters. In his newsletter, Aaron says

I fell in love with these books, in part because they didn’t just give me one story, but instead gave me a taste of an entire world of characters and adventures and history that was out there waiting for me. The sort of gargantuan super-world that would come to consume a large portion of the rest of my life. […] In other words, I think I’ve been primed from the beginning to want to build my own world of superheroes. And HEROES REBORN is maybe as close as I’ll ever come to doing exactly that.

It will surprise none of you to learn that I also read World’s Finest Comics regularly as a kid, especially during the Dollar Comics phase. (It lasted over five years and almost 40 issues, from April-May 1977’s #244 through August 1982’s #282; and a Green Arrow/Black Canary backup continued for a couple of issues past that.) Although the Dollar Comics line was largely an experiment in marketing and economics of scale, World’s Finest was pretty impressive among the company’s late-1970s output.

Continue reading “Re-reading ‘World’s Finest’ #258, the comic that got Jason Aaron into world-building”

Bendis and Marquez jump-start the Justice League

A new era begins in ‘Justice League’ #59, which ‘includes a number of familiar, welcome elements, all deftly executed.’

[Note: This post contains spoilers for the lead story in Justice League #59. The issue also includes a Justice League Dark installment, which was creepy and suspenseful, but won’t be discussed here.]

Last year’s trip through the Justice League’s 60-year history got as far as the start of the “Snyder Era.” (No, not that Snyder — Scott Snyder.) Because some of us still have a slight Death Metal hangover, a post on those years is still TBA. Regardless, the “Bendis Era” began this week with May 2021’s Justice League #59. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by David Marquez and colored by Tamra Bonvillain, it includes a number of familiar, welcome elements, all deftly executed.

Chief among them is the notion that the Leaguers have lives outside this book. At the risk of being redundant, the point of an all-star team is the interaction of characters who can each carry their own features. Sure, you can craft a perfectly entertaining adventure by dropping a handful of heroes into a standalone story, but the best League runs have incorporated larger DC continuity to one degree or another. (Somewhat ironically, the Bendis Era begins just as DC has decided to have free-range continuity.)

Continue reading “Bendis and Marquez jump-start the Justice League”

Tom and Carla lock down 2020

Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman review the year that was for Marvel and DC, while looking toward the future for both companies.

From 2009 to 2015, Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman collaborated on year-in-review posts centered around DC and Marvel. Circumstances kept them apart for a while; but it turns out that being stuck in your house for months on end can also help you reconnect. Therefore, Smash Pages proudly presents the return of an annual tradition, as Tom & Carla lock down 2020!

[This conversation has been edited from an extended Slack chat that occurred in December.]


Carla: Okay, so main topics for the year I see right up front are production (company decisions, strategies, etc), story (what’s actually happening in the comics) and media (TV and movie stuff).

Anything else this doesn’t cover? What’s the most important of these do you think?

Tom: I would say the production side of things – shutting down Diamond for six weeks, plus all the DC layoffs and cancellations, and DC changing distributors twice (or at least 1 1/2 times). Didn’t Marvel have some cancellations as well? Feels like Marvel had a low-key year event-wise, although it went from Empyre to X Of Swords to King In Black.

Continue reading “Tom and Carla lock down 2020”

The Justice League at 60, Part 10: Rebirth on repeat

Tom Bondurant wraps up (for now) his series looking back at 60 years of the Justice League with a look at the most recent era.

Check out part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven, part eight and part nine of this series!

The New 52 lasted four years and nine months, from August 31, 2011 to May 25, 2016. On each of those Wednesdays, DC Comics released one universe-changing big-event issue and one issue of Justice League. In 2011 it was Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1; and in 2016 it was Justice League #50 and the DC Universe Rebirth special. All were written by Geoff Johns, still one of DC’s main guiding forces even as his attention shifted away from comics. The DCU Rebirth issue kicked off a months-long apology-in-print marked by “Rebirth” banners on all of the superhero books’ covers. This publishing strategy aimed to reintroduce elements of the DC Universe which the New 52 had stripped away, including the pre-New 52 Superman – who, as a distinct character, had been living in a sort of multiversal fishbowl – and the classic version of Wally “Flash” West. Among other things, this meant that Superman was now the newest member of the Justice League, since he replaced his late New 52 predecessor.

Although those cover banners were gone by February 2018, in terms of continuity we may still be in the “Rebirth” era today. Among other things, DCU Rebirth set up Doomsday Clock, the 12-issue miniseries from Johns and Gary Frank. Going on sale November 22, 2017 (cover date January 2018), it would explain how Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan had changed the DC timeline into the New 52, and how he would change it back.

Well, back-ish.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part 10: Rebirth on repeat”

The Justice League at 60, Part 9: High collars and wide screens

It’s time for a relaunch: take a look back at the Geoff Johns-helmed New 52 relaunch of ‘Justice League.’

Check out part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven and part eight of this series!

When the comprehensive history of DC Comics is written, I hope it goes into exhaustive detail on the conception, execution and ultimate retraction of the New 52. Let’s be clear right from the beginning: I did not love the New 52, but I didn’t hate it either. It represented DC’s willingness – although maybe not its best efforts – to try new approaches with key characters and to revive non-superhero genres.

As the spring of 2011 wound down, DC was wrapping up a couple of year-long biweekly series, Brightest Day (co-written by Geoff Johns) and Justice League: Generation Lost. The former followed a handful of superheroes who had been revived in Blackest Night – including Justice League stalwarts Aquaman, Hawkman, Firestorm and Martian Manhunter – while the latter was a Justice League International reunion that saw them trying to stop their old buddy-turned-baddie Maxwell Lord. Meanwhile, the Bat-books, Superman and Wonder Woman were each in the middle of altered-status-quo storylines.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part 9: High collars and wide screens”

The Justice League at 60, Part 8: Fantasy Drafts

In this edition, Tom Bondurant dives into the “Crisis Cycle” era that defined the Justice League before the New 52 kicked in.

For a series which only lasted five years, there’s a lot to talk about with regard to Justice League of America volume 2. Much of this involves events outside the series, both in DC’s other comics and with the people producing them. Meanwhile, the “comics blogosphere” came into its own, intensifying fan scrutiny and offering real-time commentary on controversies. This post won’t go too deeply into all that extratextual drama; but rest assured it was there, and it crept inevitably into the work.

With that said, let’s get started.

The Legends miniseries begat Justice League International and the Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare miniseries begat JLA. The 2006-2011 Justice League of America similarly traced its roots to 2004’s Identity Crisis, written by novelist Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Rags Morales and inked by Michael Bair. Featuring the murder of a superhero’s spouse and reaching back into the League’s hidden history, Identity Crisis kicked off a “Crisis cycle” that churned through DC books for the next several years.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part 8: Fantasy Drafts”

The Justice League at 60, Part 7: Pantheon

With the team’s first appearance arriving in December of 1959, Tom Bondurant looks back at the different eras that have defined the Justice League over the last 60 years. This time around: JLA!

Check out part one, part two, part three, part four, part five and part six of this series!

Throughout the 1960s, Justice League of America was the standard-bearer for DC Comics’ superhero teams. In the 1970s, the series boasted an expanded roster and solid, steady Dick Dillin art. The 1980s brought sweeping, lasting changes, from Detroit to the JLI; and the early ’90s turned the League into a franchise. Still, was any of that ever really cool?

I can’t tell you for sure, but I can say this: starting in the summer of 1996, the Justice League was cool enough for Wizard. The breathless self-appointed arbiter of mainstream superhero comics’ cutting edge was all over JLA in the series’ early years, including a 1997 special issue devoted entirely to the title. It was a super-high concept executed by Grant Morrison, one of the era’s hottest writers. Of course Wizard was going to notice.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part 7: Pantheon”

The Justice League at 60, Part 6: Globetrotters

Take a look back at the “International” era of the Justice League that brought new faces, more titles and lots of laughs to the team.

Check out part one, part two, part three, part four and part five of this series.

Folks, we’ve got a lot to get through today, so I’m going to give it to you straight: Some of this stuff was just a mess. Much of it was good and some of that was great. Some of it we can look at as “the ’90s.” However, some of it was, again, just a mess. I’m going to start in the middle and end with the beginning, so we can go out on a not-so-bad note.

Now then: Among the random bits of weirdness in this extended Justice League International period of 1986-1996 are the not-insignificant contributions of Slave Labor Graphics publisher Dan Vado. Starting in Early August 1993 (after Dan Jurgens left), he wrote 14 issues of Justice League America and then wrote the first 8 issues of Extreme Justice. Vado and his artistic collaborators Mike Collins, Kevin West and Marc Campos presided over a two-year stretch of League history, which threatens to be overlooked between the Jurgens and Gerard Jones/Chuck Wojtkiewicz runs.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part 6: Globetrotters”

The Justice League at 60, Part Five: The Experiment

You gotta lose your mind as Tom Bondurant dives into the infamous ‘Detroit League’ of the late 1980s.

Check out part one, part two, part three and part four of this series!

There’s a lot crammed into the 40-page story writer Gerry Conway, penciller Chuck Patton and inker Dave Hunt tell in 1984’s Justice League of America Annual #2. The issue charts the official end of the JLA (as Aquaman exercises his founding-member privilege to disband it) and the subsequent creation of a new, ostensibly more focused team. Along the way the Leaguers say goodbye to their ruined satellite headquarters and hello to “the Bunker,” a mall-sized fallout shelter in the middle of Detroit, built by an ex-superhero who apparently saw too many movies about NORAD. Everything that happens in the annual happens quickly: four experienced Leaguers decide to re-form the team moments after dissolving the original; the new League gains two new members who each saw the re-forming happen on live television; and the third and fourth new members basically break into the supposedly impregnable new headquarters. The issue ends with a block party, welcoming the Justice League to this particular run-down part of town.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part Five: The Experiment”

The Justice League at 60, Part Four: Conway’s Corner

Tom Bondurant continues his look back at 60 years of the Justice League.

Check out part one, part two and part three of this series!

Ask a Marvel fan about Gerry Conway and you’re likely to get an answer involving Gwen Stacy. Ask a DC fan about Conway and the answer may well involve his eight years as regular writer of Justice League of America. We’ve mentioned his statistics already, but they bear repeating: Gerry Conway wrote 102 of JLA‘s 261 issues (including 81 in the Satellite Era), plus one of its three annuals. Original JLA writer Gardner F. Fox is in second place with 65 issues.

Between Fox and Conway, an assortment of writers worked with the scarily dependable penciller Dick Dillin. Denny O’Neil, Mike Friedrich and Len Wein each contributed solid, multi-year runs before writing duties were shared among a bullpen for three years. After that was Conway’s immediate predecessor Steve Englehart, whose 10 oversized issues successfully combined existing DC lore with new characters and relationship-driven subplots. Included in the latter was friction between Flash, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman over her alleged bossiness (in reality mind-manipulation from new villain The Construct). Englehart left everyone on good terms, but it was awkward and a little bumpy getting there.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part Four: Conway’s Corner”

Wally West can’t stop running

Tom Bondurant recounts the history of Wally West, from reluctant superhero to generational avatar.

For many superhero-comic readers of the 1980s and ’90s (not to mention viewers of the Justice League animated series in the 2000s), Wally West was the Flash – the fastest man alive. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino for January 1960’s The Flash issue #110, Wally gained super-speed just as his idol did, by being doused in Barry Allen’s laboratory chemicals and struck by lightning. Today Wally has become a symbol of DC Comics’ superhero legacies, so much so that his role in 2016’s DC Universe Rebirth special signaled a wholesale return to a previous timeline. However, when editorial fiat dispatched him in 2011, Wally had arguably done everything he’d set out to do. Indeed, Wally’s history includes a couple of prominent retirement periods already. Now he’s inherited Metron’s Mobius Chair and Doctor Manhattan’s powers, but the question still remains: What’s left for Wally West?

Wally started out as Kid Flash, sidekick and sometimes backup-feature star. At first he wore a kid-sized Flash costume, so his more familiar duds (acquired in March 1963’s Flash #135) represented a significant step in his development. He was a charter member of the Teen Titans from its primeval beginning (June-July 1964’s Brave and the Bold #54) to its February 1978 dissolution (Teen Titans #53). Shortly thereafter, in 1978’s DC Special Series issue #11, writer Cary Bates and artist Irv Novick had Wally tell his family that he would only be Kid Flash through the end of his college career; and upon graduation, he’d retire from superheroics.

Continue reading “Wally West can’t stop running”

The Justice League at 60, Part Three: Into Orbit

Tom Bondurant jumps into the ‘Satellite Era’ of the 1970s and ’80s this week, as he continues his look 60 years of the Justice League.

Check out part one and part two of this series!

What we’re calling the “Satellite Era” of Justice League of America began in November 1968’s issue #66, several issues before the team would move into its new headquarters stationed geosynchronously 22,300 miles above Metropolis. Still, writer Gardner Fox’s departure with #65 was the end of an era which stretched arguably back to the Justice Society; and successor Denny O’Neil was making changes even before the satellite was built.

Just as the Silver Age was dominated by Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky, the Satellite Era would be directed mostly by writer Gerry Conway and artist Dick Dillin. This period lasted until November 1984’s issue #232 (after which the team had moved out of the satellite for good); and of those 164 regular issues and two Annuals, Conway wrote 81 and Dillin pencilled 116. Because Conway arrived long after Dillin started, the two only collaborated on 39 issues. Nevertheless, one or the other was part of just about every JLA issue from November 1968 through February 1984.

Continue reading “The Justice League at 60, Part Three: Into Orbit”