DigestCast #1 – Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #21: Justice Society

Let’s get small! Shag and Rob kick off DIGESTCAST with a look at BEST OF DC BLUE RIBBON DIGEST #21 (Feb. 1982), the all-Justice Society issue! Stories include “The Untold Origin of the Justice Society”, “The Day That Dropped Out of Time”, and “The Big Superhero Hunt”, a Starman/Black Canary team-up!

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31 responses to “DigestCast #1 – Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #21: Justice Society

  1. Great show so far. I had to pause to answer your question, Shag. The “Daughter of the Demon” story in Batman v1 #232 was printed as a regular comic, in a treasury (Limited Collector’s Edition C-51) and a digest (Best of DC Digest #… 51… huh… featuring the Batman Family).

    That is one.

    1. “Night of the Reaper” (Batman #237) which was also in Limited Collectors Edition C-52 (Best of DC) and that Best of DC Digest #51 is another. I also suspect some of the Christmas with the Super Heroes stories, too.

      Ironically, there were so many Legion stories in digests but those Mordru stories in LCE C-49 weren’t.

      1. Found two more:

        “The Demon Within”
        House of Mystery #201
        LCE C-52
        DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #24

        “A Swingin’ Christmas Carol”
        Teen Titans #13
        LCE C-34 (Christmas with the Super-Heroes)
        Best of DC #22 (Christmas with the Super-Heroes)

        1. Can’t stop digging!

          One more by Berni Wrightson

          “Nightmare”
          House of Mystery #186
          Limited Collectors Edition C-23
          DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #17

  2. Excellent first episode, guys!

    Funny you joked about me being the eBay seller price-gouging DARK MANSIONS OF FORBIDDEN LOVE because I did, in fact, get it from eBay only a couple of months before Shag would’ve been searching for it. And yes, it was a little pricy, but it was still a hell of a lot cheaper than buying the first issue of DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE, which is reprinted in DMOFL and includes the first appearance of Madame Xanadu.

    Good on Shag for plugging Secret Origins Podcast episode 31, where he and I took the position that Superman and Batman were not needed for the origin of the Justice Society of America, while Kyle and Al took the other position. I still come down somewhere in the middle. The original version of the story by Levitz and Staton is superior, but I do believe there is a way to tell the story without Superman, even if Roy Thomas’ attempt didn’t stick the landing perfectly.

    Black Canary and Starman teamed up in the previous issue of THE BRAVE AND BOLD, as well, with the same creative team. That issue did include Dinah’s husband, Larry Lance, but there were still subtle bits of chemistry between the heroes that helped fuel Robinson’s retcon. Also, they fought Starman nemesis the Mist in that issue. Chris Franklin and I covered both of those stories on episode 19 of Flowers & Fishnets: The Black Canary Podcast in tribute to Murphy Anderson.

    As for this story, yes, it’s absurd that Black Canary picks Sportsmaster up over her head and tosses him. And yes, they cannot wait to ditch Wildcat. It’s hilarious. Also, I had the same thought as Rob when I saw “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure” and spotted Sportsmaster and Huntress/Tigress together. Great little easter egg.

  3. As a lifelong golden age and JSA fan, I naturally have this digest in my collection, and recall a time before Archives Editions, when the only way to see All-Star comics was in reprint editions such as digests, 100 page Super-Spectaculars (hey, there’s a podcast format you’re missing!) and the adaptations that Roy Thomas did in All-Star Squadron.

    Whenever the JSA appeared in modern comics, we as readers pretty much had to take your word for it how awesome the heroes were. And the DC writers weren’t lying. While I share modern readers’ trepidations toward 1940s materials, I still love them. There was such an economy of story-telling that the writers and artists could easily get a point across without a lot of filler exposition.

    The art form was so primal, the characters so iconic, and you had to admire that this was a medium aimed at a very specific demographic–an age group that really wasn’t much younger than the creators themselves. I always felt that All-Star Comics, besides the wow team-up factor that was such a novelty to the time, did bring its A-game to the table in writing and art. The JSA was conceived as a marketing gimmick-but I believe did achieve its status as a “Society” with great effort. There was a reason that the group has been so welcome in most of its revivalist formats (except New 52 – nothing counts in New 52 – let’s just call that high-priced fan fiction and move on). The respect is earned.

    I do share Shagg’s issues with the print size. My older eyes can’t cut them anymore. But I am glad I have that stack of digests that I did read the print off of in my late teens and early 20s. Maybe Shagg and Rob will give me $300 apiece for them someday. (laughs). Great show, gentlemen. You are Sunday afternoon appointment listening.

    1. New 52 JSA wasn’t good but it did bring Paul Levitz back to The Huntress and Power Girl… as well as a version of Doctor Fate… so I’m grateful for that legacy. Someone I afforded those $2.99 issues. I had to pass up using parking meters for a few days!

  4. Great episode about a great collection! I didn’t buy this particular digest back in the day because I already had the DC Special issue and the reprint of Starman-Black Canary and I was never a huge Per Degaton fan. BUT I do like all of these stories, and agree with your affection for them.
    Rob, it sounds like you said that Joe Staton and Bob Layton only worked together on this one story. Of course, they were the “permanent” art team on All-Star Comics for nearly a year. They drew the first Huntress story, for example. When Layton left All Star Comics and was replaced by Joe Giella….shudder!!! Nowhere near as good.

    Shagg, the cover you were thinking of is Alter Ego #109, which I tried to upload here but couldn’t. It’s a re-cycle of this digest’s illustration in super-size and better colors.

    And lastly, one of my all-time favorites, Teen Titans #13, “The Teen Titans’ Swinging Christmas Carol!” has been reprinted in Treasury & Digest sizes.

  5. Following up on the Starman/Canary affair — I asked Robinson if he got any flack for it. He said he didn’t, but that it was written prior to social media. Had he written it today, Robinson suspects the reception may have been different.

    Aldutery as “fun”? I guess that’s one way to go.

    You’re covering Archie books, right?

    Siskoid and Shag, is the Spectre’s “whammy stare” taken into account in the Mayfair games material? I think “whammy stare” is its scientific name.

    Looking forward to “Podimus Prime: A Transformers Podcast” hosted by Rob Kelly.

    Also, great job on that theme song, Daab!

  6. The Golden Age Clock, considered the first comics-original masked hero, had a mask like that as well.
    The “Legends” episodes of Justice League/Unlimited had a Sportsman as well.

    Nice start, guys, another winner. Best part is the Luke Daab theme, as always.

  7. Well, of course I’m going to vote for the other JSA digest for the 2nd episode. I have a ton of these digests so I think I am ready for whichever one you decide is next. Great job guys!

  8. Congratulations on a great little show.

    If I were to recommend a modern digest for kids it would be the Spider-Girl ones from Marvel. Just classix all-ages fun.

    I hate the business of the Black Canary/Starman affair but yes, it is a fair reading of the text. I’m amazed that they never ‘revealed’ that Dinah II was the result of that affair, but I suppose she was already born by then.

    I love Huntress and Sportsmaster, I first came across them in Strange Sports Stories. They should be brought back at once and with no irony.

  9. I don’t even know where to start. My love for the digests is pretty obvious, as they sit on my bookshelf to this day, in front of all my other hardbacks and tpbs. This issue in particular stands out because of a great number of things. One, I love the JSA (hence the Earth 2 moniker), and their origin is perhaps the best after-the-fact origin ever created. Let’s face it, those usually suck wind. But this one is perfect. I’m also a sucker for Starman, obviously.

    But the real reason this one stands out is because I received this issue the very day of my greatest childhood shame. I was in 1st grade, and while our teacher was out of the room, the fire alarm sounded. As other kids lined up at the door as they were previously instructed, I decided it would be fun to run around the room, flailing my arms and screaming “FIRE FIRE!!!” over and over. Well, my teacher did not find this a bit fun upon her return, and dragged my by the arm outside the building where all the other kids and teachers were headed. When everyone was safely outside, my teacher decided to make an example of my irresponsible behavior, and having grabbed the paddle hanging near the door with her free hand, she spanked me in front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL.

    I spent the rest of the day in shame, sobbing, knowing I knew better than to do something so stupid, and certain my parents would be very disappointed in me. I was right. When I got home I had to show my Dad the note. He gave me a calm but verbal dressing down, and told me I’d have to wait until my Mom came home to receive my official sentence. When my Mom came in from work that evening, my Dad met her at the door and filled her in. I then got the not-so-calm verbal dressing down, and then my Mom produced this very digest from her purse. She told me she had bought that for a good boy, not someone who would endanger himself and his friends just for a laugh. I then got my one-and-only parental spanking.

    Strangely enough, I got to keep the comic. My mom knew me well, and she knew that I would NEVER look at that comic and not think about the stupid thing I had done. She was right. I see that comic today, and I relive that odd day of shame. I never did anything like that again! Although there is ANOTHER story concerning a DC digest, and irresponsibility I can relate when you guys cover that one.

    But despite all that, I love this comic, for the very reasons you guys brought up. Ryan and I covered that Starman and Canary team-up on Flowers and Fishnets, and of course Cindy and I will be addressing the affair when we get to it in our Starman Chronicles on Super Mates. I thought it was funny you guys brought up Sportsmaster and his flying green in Caddyshack. Hey, Ted Knight is right there!

    Sportsmaster and Huntress figured very heavily on the Young Justice animated series, soon to return on Netflix. Their comic daughter Artemis was of course a hero on that show.

    Great start gents! Get the next one out!!!

    Chris

    1. Chris, I was tempted to say that you’re the reason we can’t have nice things, but bless your mom and dad. A spanking is never well received or given lightly, but there are times…. and the reminder is always there. I think your mom was wise not to deprive you of the small intended gift. And I hope you took the example of the JSA to heart, and that their virtuosity inspired you to become the awesome father that you are today. Just imagine the beatings little Ted Grant might have took — before he took on a career taking — and giving — beatings!

      Gord.

      1. My parents laid a great foundation for an honest life, and that was only bolstered by the JLA and JSA. I totally deserved that spanking that day…BOTH of them, and all poltically correct BS aside, I would consider doing the same to my kids if they pulled something like that, but I would never consider it lightly, just like they didn’t. I knew they meant business when they pulled out corporal punishment!

        Chris

  10. This and the series, All Star Squadron is where my love of the JSA is born. Before this they were the “older team” that the Justice League teamed up with. After reading this I was hooked on the Earth 2 guys.

    I’m also a sucker for time travel stories, so this hits a sweet spot.

    This book is so important to my personal comics history, it’s part of one on my “pop culture shaman” displays. The truth is that my love for the JSA, time travel stories AND alternate worlds start here. So this is where 12 year old me got hooked on his favorite part of Superhero stuff.

    (You guys sure talked a lot about the digests in general, interesting, but really “cool size, reprints stuff sometimes relevant too what was on stands sometimes not” isn’t that enough)(fine I liked it but my love for those stories made me impatient.)(Marvel later stuff Spider Girl? Fantastic Five? I would love if that got covered)
    If it appears in this digest, I read it here first,
    And this is three of my favorite stories. I bought it because it tied in to All Star Squadron, and a Perez cover. I bought it off the stands, and fell in love with every part.
    This IS the proper origin for the JSA! I love this story!
    I love everything about this origin story!

    Ok, mabey not the best PerDegiton story, but the first.
    I read this after the first few AllStar Squadron issues and the back ground was nice to have. It’s really good for a golden age story, but it’s still a golden are story. Great ideas. Paced wrong with plot holes, but GREAT ideas! (If I had my way EVERY Per Degiton story would have that same “I must have dreamed it” ending, every attempt to take over the world technically his first.)

    I think the last story is not only where my love for Starman comes from (Cannary was a fave already), but it’s why I’m ok with the retcon affair. I have no problem seeing them “slipping up”, because of how they act here. I’ve often speculated that this reprint IS what put that idea in “future” writer’s heads.

    Yeah. This is in the top ten, “most influential single comics for Bradleyman”
    I truly deeply love this little book
    Bradleyman/ Rev. Null

  11. Huzzah! It’s a new podcast. Once again, you have exposed my ignorance of comicdom, and proceeded to replace said ignorance with knowledge. My only real exposure to the digest format is through the Archie digests in the grocery store. So I’m looking forward to learning more.

    In regards to the JSA, I really got into them during the Post-Zero Hour era, which is basically when I made my transition from Marvel to DC. So it was good to get a glimpse of the team’s Golden Age adventures.

    On a personal note, I appreciate the timing of this episode. I’m in Jacksonville, FL for a meeting the first part of this week. Getting to hear the premier of a new podcast helps to take the sting out of missing Valentine’s Day with my wife.

  12. Been pretty pumped to hear this one. I had a ton of digests back in the day.

    In the summer month’s I did odd jobs for the church I attended, mowed lawns, and did generally anything a kid could do to make a buck. And right up the road from the beach house was a convenience story that had digests. So I bought a ton … lost to the parental purge. I had a bunch of the best ofs, the legion ones, brave and bold, metal men, and whatever JSA ones I could grab. (In another JSA one I first read the Dr Fate Pasko/Simonson story. That one also has the Stream of Ruthlessness story, another fave). The digest were perfect for throwing into a bag and taking to the beach. So I have fond memories.

    This one is great for the origin as you say. (Surprised Shag didn’t mention the lack of Valkyrie derriere, one of the focal points in the Secret Origins coverage of this story). I love that Superman plays such a big role and has that fantastic splash page. And everyone gets their moment in the son.

    For some reason, I am a Per Degaton fan. I have read at least three stories with him tinkering with time with an ending panel of him washing the test tubes again. I suppose he is just a charismatic leader but he always comes close to winning. Remember, in the 80s, he caused a nuclear war on our Earth Prime!

    And no denying that Murphy Anderson rules on the Canary Starman story. Interesting those two teamed up so often. And brilliant for James Robinson to play off that later.

    Hoping the Supergirl digest gets eventually covered!

  13. Great first show, Rob and Shag!

    I bought a lot of digests when they first came out including both this one and the previous JSA Digest. They made a big impact on me. I’d read Degaton’s appearances in All-Star Squadron (and some of his later ones like the Crisis on Five Earths crossover). When the Secret Origins issue came out I thought the revised JSA origin was inferior to the one reprinted in the digest. And I remember when James Robinson’s Starman retconned the Starman/Black Canary affair that it made sense to me based on this digest.

    It’s interesting that this digest was used to tie into Thomas’s early All-Star Squadron issues. But when Thomas launched Infinity Inc. a few years later, he used the Stream of Ruthlessness from the previous digest.

    I know they aren’t proper digests, but the DC Digests weren’t the first time I read superhero tales at pocket size. Pocket Books reprinted several small reprints of 1960s Marvel stories. I read and re-read the Spider-Man. FF and Captain America volumes. Maybe that’s why I’m so near-sighted now. Tempo Books also did pocket-sized, black and white reprints of classic DC stories. (Although Tempo tended to only have one or two panels per page.)

    Oh, the original line-up of the JSA featured heroes from both National and All-American. In 1944-5 All-American briefly ended their business arrangement and switched from the DC cover logo to an AA one. When All-American was later formally merged, the National-DC heroes didn’t rejoin the team.

  14. Another fun show guys. Really enjoyed it. I got rid of most of my digests long ago, but this is a nice reminder of what I liked about them … Darrin

  15. I still have some of my old digests and I’m glad you’re giving me a reason to look at them again. It seems like a no-brainer that DC could release digests again as the movies start to hit the theaters. The digests and old Brave & the Bolds were how I learned about the DCU. One of my favorites was:
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3bjwfqvptBY/UelUc7-mXlI/AAAAAAAABD8/QybThchDzUQ/s1600/Best+of+DC+Blue+Ribbon+v+3+n+140001.jpg

    I loved the one page origins of the villains!

  16. One of the many reasons I’ll never be as successful a podcaster as you guys is that my brain just is not wired like you two and your audience. I have trouble comprehending the concept of devoting a show to a specific dimension of paper stock, and you folks have two shows solely differentiated by publication format.
    “Oh, you’re covering anthologies? Like Strange Adventures or Showcase?”
    “Did those books print their stories as a 10″ x 14″ tabloid?”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “NO SHOW FOR YOU!”
    “There was this one Atomic Knights that ran in a 5 1⁄2 by 8 1⁄4 inch booklet that was in the same rack as TV Guide.”
    “Oh well, that one’s in then.”
    I am officially all of your dads, throwing my hands up when you sneer at the funnybook I thoughtfully bought you at the gas station on the way home from the office just because I don’t know the difference between a Human Fly and a Spiderman. What’s so bad about a U.S. 1? You used to love your Tonka trucks so much!

    I also considered copying and pasting my criticism from the first episode of Treasury Cast and just swapping out “treasury” for “digest” like a Mad Lib. I prefer the convenience and sturdiness of digests over the cumbersome and frail treasuries, but I was born too late to fully embrace them. Super-hero digests were rarely found in my childhood, and I had no interest in Archie or Richie Rich. Even as a kid, the reproduction struck me as poor, and I couldn’t get excited about all those tiny panels. The best thing about them was that they were curated reprints at a time when that was a valuable option, but I’d take a Fireside Edition or a “real” book like Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes any day. They were more thematically consistent, chose only the finest material, and were usually an all around superior representation. I also really liked black and white paperbacks that preserved a readable panel size at the expense of color and dynamic layouts. Those were especially handy in my awkward teenage years when I wanted a comic fix at school without drawing too much unwanted attention to my geekiness. Probably the biggest problem though was that most digests reprinted DC stories from periods I’m disdainful of. I might have been drawn to a Siegel & Shuster Superman digest, but DC only wanted to throw Curt Swan at me again and again. I was an early adopter of trade paperbacks, and having bookshelves lined with them make me the happiest.

    I’ve never read these specific JSA stories, but I’d be down to. I’ve always dug Per Degaton, and I much prefer Paul Levitz retrofitting history into comics over Roy Thomas. Wasn’t he the one who came up with the HUAC angle? If the All-Star Comics revival was such a big seller, why did it fold in less than two years?

    Ironically, I would actually appreciate a Funny Stuff episode, since that’s the first of the two digests I recall buying off the newsstand ever. The other one was a Spider-Man digest featuring Man Mountain Marko on the cover, because I was stuck in Flagstaff, Arizona and it was the comic bookiest thing I could find.

  17. Great choice for a great episode.

    Len Wein was editor for the early issues of All-Star Squadron which made sense that he did the cross-promotion with this digest.

    I also remember the earlier JSA digest (DC Special Digest #3) with the Staton drawn intro explaining the multiple earths. I had never seen it before but when it referenced the combo of Flash, Aquaman and Deadman of Earth-1, I realized it must have been in the issue of ADVENTURE COMICS I missed: #461, when the JSA moved to that title.

  18. (Fake British accent) that was bloody fantastic! I adore the digests and they are suitable for collecting in a small Manhattan apartment for me. (Actually digital is the best but I my Generation X part of me likes paper!)

    In regards to time travel; Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently discussed time paradox. From an actual astrophysicist perspective time travel can exist!!! Although there would be no paradox if you went back in time you automatically go into a new multiverse in which you can never return to your origin. So if you kill Hitler as a baby then that multiverse is the other path that you come back to. Dr Who= wrong! Even though I love the Doctor. Btw rumor has it that it might be TILDA SWINTON!!! that would be amazing! Although I also really like Richard Ayoade who bring the proper amount of nerdish feel tonit but having a fresh new perspective. Back to selling sharks -Lucien

  19. So riddle me this: How can this podcast be so long? Oh right, Shag is on it.. 😉

    We give each other a hard time folks, but the fact that Shagg is one of my spirit animals is proven by the simple fact that he name-dropped Voyagers!

    Coming soon from FW Podcasts: The Time Tunnel/Voyagers! Power Hour

    Oh and the JSA is great. Earth-2 is great. Great choice for a first Digest.

      1. I was of course kidding, but now anything could become a “FW Presents” and I do have the softest of spots for time travel shows and movies.

        I’ve just held off out of respect for Another Kind of Distance, but I might figure it out some day.

  20. Great show and super concept. Love the Digests.
    Yes, Germany had plans to invade England shortly after France fell. See: Operation Sea Lion.

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