Secret Origins #32: Justice League of America

Ryan Daly reviews the post-Crisis origin of the Justice League of America from Secret Origins #32, with a lot of help from Rob Kelly, Diabolu Frank, Chris Franklin, Chad Bokelman, and Keith G! Baker.

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“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music: “Theme from The A-Team” by Daniel Caine Orchestra; “Come Together” by The Beatles; “Heroes” by David Bowie.

Thanks for listening!

22 responses to “Secret Origins #32: Justice League of America

  1. Multiple contributors was a great way to approach this story, Ryan – I’m imagining everyone had their own logo.

    My first JLA story was The Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust, from Justice League of America #10, presumably a cover-first deal giving it reworked a fantastic Sensation Comics image. And no, I’m not quite that old, it was from my ‘inherited from Lynette the neighbour’ stash. So yes, my first JLA was just one issue after the origin story reworked in this Secret Origins – while the Satellite era from #100-200 is my JLA Golden Age, I’m pretty attached to this era.

    Given that DC decided to redo the origin post-Crisis, this is a fine story; as was said, it has a witty script and gorgeous art. I could’ve done without it, mind – just carry on with modern adventures, the original origin was there, everyone knew it had been Crisesed and wouldn’t have happened exactly as chronicled.

    That said, this does have one thing over the original – no sodding Snapper Carr, daddy-o. How the heck did this supposed reader identification figure stick with the team for years, surely readers weren’t writing in praising him? I dont remember the JLA Mail Room being awash with adoring epistles. Maybe that’s why they kept him around, to sort the post?

    Again, given the story exists, Dinah is an elegant solution to the Diana problem on the ‘two birds’ basis mentioned. Plus, she had almost the same name as Wonder Woman so we just imagine Di was there instead of Di, and her mother came out of retirement for the annual team-ups with the JSA. Bob’s your uncle. And Alan, and Ted, and Ted…

  2. All I can say is: “Masterful editing Ryan.”

    I sound less scatterbrained and ignorant as I no doubt come across in the original, unedited audio. I blame my upcoming 29th birthday (April 6th…yeah, plugging my OWN birthday….just cause. How’s THAT for ego?) and the no doubt sudden onset dementia of fast approaching the 30 mark.

    It reassures me in a slightly unsettling way that Franks favorite era of JLA is the Grant Morrison era too. Or maybe it’s just yet another signal heralding the dementia I was talking about…

    Great episode though Ryan. Good way to approach this material in podcast form. As a fellow longtime podcaster, it’s always difficult to wrangle people into not talking over one another when there’s more than say, three people on the line. Not to mention the usual audio quality issues that crop up when lots of people are on a single skype call.

  3. By H’ronmeer, what an editing job this must have been!

    Since I didn’t have to do it, all I will say is, it was worth it! SO #32 was a really fun comic and so was the episode. It’s too bad we never got any more JLA adventures by this writing/art team.

    Well done Ryan!

  4. My intro to the League was during the Satellite Era, with a crossover with Adam Strange. It was just before the Super Friends premiered. I read it off and on (when I could get my hands on it) throughout the Bronze Age; but hadn’t really touched it since the “Crisis on Earth Prime” JLA/JSA/All-Star Squadron crossover. However, I jumped back onboard with the launch of JLI and stayed up through Giffen and Dematteis leaving. I first read the origin story where many people saw it, JLA #200. This was an interesting retelling and though I missed Wonder Woman, I gave them points for a decent solution in Black Canary. It’s not perfect, but, the story worked.

    The team was an interesting choice, with Peter David scripting, which helped carry forward the then-current tone of JLI, while still staying true to the serious nature of the original story. Eric Shanower was an interesting choice for artists, since he didn’t do much in the way of superhero comics (he had done the Oz books, at First, which was before this story). He does a fine job and was able to do the facial work that had made JLI a hit. Also, I like the fact that he isn’t part of the steroid crowd and gave the heroes impressive, but realistic looks. I’m not surprised Ryan was somewhat unfamiliar with Shanower. He worked far more in the independents than DC or Marvel (though Marvel has reprinted the Oz books). He also did some work for Gay Comics, which not many people have seen (myself included). Age of Bronze is a fantastic work and the Oz books were gorgeous.

    I agree that I would have loved to see more Peter David writing on the Justice league titles of this period. David was still building a name, as a writer, after being turned down because he was in sales, at Marvel. he did a ton of Star Trek, for DC, though not without problems from a specific individual at Paramount’s licensing office. He handle the Justice League as well as he did the Star Trek characters.

    As for recommendations, you guys covered the best. The Crisis on Multiple Earths cover the awesome (usually, though there are some clinkers) JLA/JSA crossovers. The Perez stories are a must. Year One is a great follow up to this origin. Of course, the animated series is a must. i would also add, with a forgiving eye, Challenge of the Superfriends and even the first season of the Super Friends. I always thought that first season had some clever writing, even if it did have groaners for names and no “real” villains (maybe the Raven). Oh, there were a few crooks; but, most are misguided people. They are fun stories and the guest star episodes (Plastic Man, Flash, Green Arrow) are always fun. I’d also recommend Batman Brave and the Bold for the appearances of the JLI characters.

  5. ps the A-Team? Well, it’s a team, I suppose; but, it conjures up the horror that was 80s action tv. Still, we got some Bowie, so it ends well!

  6. My first JLA story was #161; I joined the book at the same time Zatanna did.

    Superman continuity was really messed up at this time, wasn’t it? I mean, Man of Steel was set, what, 5 or 10 years in the past, Superman had to be the first of the modern-age superheroes to appear, but the regular superbooks weren’t in the past, so the guy had to have sat around in Metropolis rescuing cats or somethiing (because none of his villains had debuted yet except for Luthor) for years. At least in the case of Wonder Woman there’s not any kind of time warp of this kind going on. Except with regard to Wonder Girl. Honestly, there’s no good way to square the circle on this story, and using Black Canary is probably as good an option as any. The only other real choice would have been to launch a brand-new continuity implant character here (and, honestly, Miss America would have been basically that; her history was so obscure that it might as well not have existed.), and that could have gone far, far wrong. (You did name-drop Triumph at the beginning of the show…)

    1. It’s part of the reason I say they should have just gone full on reboot, after Crisis. As soon as they decided to reboot Superman from square one, you’d think someone would realize that it was going to create a snowball effect. Then again, I suspect they were still hedging their bets (when they launched the Byrne revamp) , in case the audience didn’t react well to the changes. Easier to reboot one character and then pull back, rather than an entire line of books.

  7. Another great show with a huge load of editing. Ryan, you do go to a lot of trouble, but it pays off with an earnest and highly entertaining product.

    I’m glad JLA Year One got a mention. That’s a book that deserves more attention, don’t you think?

  8. Another excellent show Ryan and great job with editing in all 5 contributors seamlessly. Although I never collected the Secret Origins series, I did read this story as it was included in an early 1990s trade paperback called (appropriately enough) Secret Origins. What was striking about this collection was a gorgeous cover by Brian Bolland which had Clark Kent, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, John Jones and Bruce Wayne sitting around a table, looking at a scrapbook while above their head is a picture of their superhero counterparts. Especially striking was the colouring – the superheroes really pop with their colouring while their secret identity selves are in sepia tones. As I said, a gorgeous cover.

    (As an aside, while a lot of the stories in the trade paperback are reprints from the Secret Origins series, and Issue 6 of the Man of Steel miniseries, there is an original Secret Origin tale of Batman by Denny O’Neill and Dirk Giordano. It is a nice tale and incorporates elements of Miller’s Year One, Hamm’s Blind Justice (specifically bringing in Henri Ducard as a teacher of the young Wayne) and O’Neill’s own story from the first arc of Legends of the Dark Night, Shaman. While it is a Batman origin story and we all know it, I’m curious if you are going to cover this in your podcast)

    My first Justice League was JLI but I loved getting the Showcase volumes and reading the stories therein. I really hope that DC would continue this series as it would be great to have all the JLofA stories in those volumes. The last volume, Number 6, took it up to JLofA 132 so just shy of the Conway run. I know DC are reprinting the stories in colour under the banner Justice League: The Silver Age, and they are also doing omnibuses of the same run, but I love those black and white Showcases (plus they are good for my wallet!)

    Looking forward to hearing the various JLI Secret Origins for the next three shows.

    1. I’m feeling very close to you Jimmy as I read this story via the trade you mention and my first JL was JLI too.

  9. Great episode as usual. This one really shined with the multiple guests each commenting on their favorite character sections.

    I don’t have this particular issue, a hole in my collection, so I had to follow along mentally. Although, there does seem to be some cosmic karma as I just reread the Waid/Kitson JLA Year One, which seemed to glean some themes from this story.

    I know Shanower mostly as the writer of the Oz comic Marvel put out with Skottie Young art. My kids loved those books. But the art I have seen looks great.

    As for the JLA, I hopped on board in the Bates/Dillin era picking up issues whenever I saw the cover. From Zatanna joining to Mr. Terrific’s death to Black Lightning turning down membership, I was there whenever I saw one and had 40 cents in my pocket. That’ll always be the ideal that other teams need to live up to. My second favorite run is Morrison’s stuff, big stories with the big seven.

  10. I forgot just how nice Shanower’s art was in this issue, and while I’m perfectly okay with him not liking superhero comics (it’s not for everyone), it kind of makes me sad he wasn’t the one drawing Year One instead of Barry Kitson.

    I ever really had a problem with the Black Canary fix that I remember. I accepted the Trinity wasn’t allowed to play and don’t really miss them. Just gives the others more space to play and develop.

    My first contact with the JLA was, like Frank, Super-Friends, specifically a coloring book with the Marvin/Wendy team, and the Challenge of the Super-Friends every Saturday. My first comic was Justice League of America #217, which coincidentally uses a similar “let’s split up” format, as did the old JSA stories and older JLA stories. It’s dear to my heart. But my favorite era is still probably Morrison’s JLA, which was crazy, clever and epic. I find the Silver Age stuff a little dry. The Satellite era is cool and probably what I think of as the “iconic” JLA. The Detroit League I read off someone else’s collection; it was engaging in a Titans kind of way for me. JLI was awesome, but while being the Justice League in name is part of the joke, it’s still not quite what we think of first as the League. The Timmverse shows were great. Haven’t liked the JLA comics in the last 15 years, sorry.

    A nicely edited round robin on this one, great show Ryan.

  11. After a great deal of conscientious thought and careful deliberation, after weighing all the variables on a matter of the utmost importance at the flashpoint of their relevance to a contemporaneous discussion that virtually defines our socio-political dialogue in this turbulent period, I have determined incontestably that I am in fact the B. A. Baracus of this podcasting collective. I figure Ryan is Face, Rob Hannibal, Chad Murdock, and I guess General Hunt Stockwell will be played by Keith G. Baker. I didn’t make it to season 5, so I don’t know if that fits at all. Has K.G.B. ever filmed commercials for local law firms or associated Richard Pryor with computer hacking?

    I tried to be considerate of Ryan in this editing intensive effort and keep my answers tight, but there’s probably an Idol-Head podcast coming sooner rather than later involving the superior “Origin of the JL -1.” I also avoided mentioning that the Gardner Fox run on the book is an asinine slog, and I generally don’t like reading anything prior to Gerry Conway except Steve Englehart unless there’s a spotlight on Martian Manhunter or Wonder Woman. I especially loathe the writer insertion debacles. I also prefer Mike Sekowsky on virtually anything over his JLA work, and Dick Dillon is best in moderation. Favorite JLArtists would include George Perez, Chuck Patton, and Howard Porter and Howard Porter, though I really like a lot of the artists who worked on the quasi-/spin-off incarnations. Mark Pajarillo was probably the single worst JL artist on any version of all time.

    I collected JLI off & on throughout the Giffen/DeMatteis run, skipped Jurgens, then came back for good a little prior to Judgment Day until that volume ended. I bought and read but did not keep every issue of JLA, including the annuals and the majority of the specials and mini-series. I was very loyal to that brand, but since DC dropped it during Infinite Crisis, I’ve barely bought any Justice League comics (aside from my unfortunate complete run of the last “…of America” retroactive maxi-series.) I had no use for Brad Meltzer, sampled but did not embrace McDuffie or Robinson, and have bought less than five issues of the New 52 run. It should come as a surprise to no one that my interest in any League is largely dependent on the inclusion of the Manhunter from Mars. Damn anyone’s counterarguments, you can have all six of the seven founding members on a team, but for me the difference between the Super Friends and the Justice League is J’Onn J’Onzz. None of the Leagues since his departure feel legitimate to me. He may not have really served on every line-up, but no single character represents the League as much as he.

    I feel you at least need Wonder Woman to be a founding member of the JLA for the character’s sake, since she’s lost so much esteem and history coming out of Crisis. Wonder Woman needed and benefited from George Perez’s attention in 1987, but in the long view she lost so much weight as a character that has never been restored. Conversely, I think Black Canary improved upon Wonder Woman as a founder Post-Crisis by establishing a connection to the JSA as part of a legacy rather than two versions of the same character operating on both teams but different Earths. Dinah Drake/Lance is one of the few high profile DC heroines who isn’t a female version of a preexisting and dominant male hero, so she needs the elevation and DC needs the girl power. In my head cannon, I just make the Year One team the base level League that are the closest and work the most missions, while the Trinity remain available for when Despero shows up. I think it could even be a fun rivalry, with all the media attention going to the Amazing Amazon and Dinah’s like “you guys, there are two women on this team and I show up more than once every other month!” Just muddy up the matter with Englehart’s origin for the proto-team including Wonder Woman but excluding Dinah and Hal.

    I refuse to acknowledge the possibility of Miss America on the team as being anything other than a deranged Roy Thomas notion. I also prefer Black Canary over Zatanna because the dynamic is more similar to Wonder Woman. Zee would completely alter the team at this point.

    As for Superman and Batman, the League works fine without them, and their legacies are secure without the League, plus they already had their own super-team trio with Robin in World’s Finest. Vastly more important than their involvement in the JLA is reenforcing their friendship and restoring the importance of The Boy Wonder. Dick Grayson is the heart and soul of DC Comics, and losing sight of that has ruined their universe across all media.

    1. I see, Frank, that you’ve met my sister who can, at times, behave exactly like Vera Webster. (Please don’t tell her I said that. She has a temper).

  12. Just finished listening to this episode. Wow! That was a truly fantastic podcast! Great job leading the discussion with these folks, and what I can only imagine was a herculean effort to edit it all so seamlessly! Well worth the extra week’s wait.

    Like some of the folks above, I read this story in the SECRET ORIGINS trade. It’s always been one of my favorites from Secret Origins. Ryan (obviously taking his meds) finally agreed with my assessment that the JSA is better without Superman and Batman. It’s my turn to return the compliment. I agree with Ryan, the classic JLA is better WITH Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

    That being said, I still really enjoy this comic. As everyone else praised, solid writing (or updating, depending upon your view) and gorgeous artwork! Even though I feel “The Trinity” should be part of the JLA from the start, I still have some passion for what was built in post-Crisis. Between this story and JLA YEAR ONE, I kinda love this version of the early JLA too. It’s like loving two parallel worlds (classic JLA origin, and the post-Crisis JLA origin).

    You really outdid yourself Ryan! The guests brought their A-game to the episode. Great to hear my buddy, Keith G Baker on the Network again too! Awesome job, Keith!

    So, Ryan, what i’m kinda saying is you’re unlikely to top this effort. You’ve peaked. Really, it’s all downhill from here pal. Sorry, your moment in the sun is about over. Have fun sitting on your front porch, getting old, remembering the good ole days when you were relevant.

    1. I enjoyed being on the SOP. Ryan was a very gracious host and was fun to work with. Do you still do podcasts, Shag? I never see anything from you.

  13. My first exposure to the Justice League (excluding the Super Friends) was JLI. When I read this when it was first published, I thought it was weird that the Big 3 were excluded but I got it.

    I liked this episode more than the JSA episode and I think it is because you didn’t have all your guests on the line at once. Though probably an editing nightmare, it was a great presentation. Great music as always, especially your use of the theme from the A Team.

  14. I’ve always enjoyed this version of the JLA origin ever since I read it in the collected Secret Origins trade that DC put out in the early or mid 90s. Not sure if I prefer the big three as part of the League’s origin or not. I’m probably one of the few people who are middle of the road fans that can accept that both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis versions of the origin can exist and be equally enjoyable. Although, I think I can agree with Ryan that Dinah just isn’t quite the powerhouse that Wonder Woman’s spot on the team left vacant. Zatanna doesn’t quite have the right fit in my mind, though, but I struggle to figure out who would have been on the same level. Lady Quark, left over from Crisis, was getting the L.E.G.I.O.N. treatment. Many of DC’s female characters at the time were more or less low-powered characters. Maybe the editorial staff decided that power level wasn’t the way to go and instead went with what you guys decided–that Canary was the most recognized female member aside from Diana. OK, so I rambled in a circle. Feh!
    Now that I think about it, why couldn’t they have just used Power Girl? She was getting a revamped origin anyway. She could have served as a replacement for both Wonder Woman and Superman, especially if they had nixed her Atlantean origin (or kept it and given Aquaman somebody to talk to who wasn’t a damn fish).

  15. Catching up on podcasts I missed while on vacation, and I have to add to the chorus of “great editing job” on this one! I don’t envy you one bit, but it sounded great. Interesting how many of us suggested the same stories, and were in love with that same Conway/Perez era. It really was the JLA at high tide.

    I do think that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman SHOULD be in the JLA. But this comic is so well done, I accepted it pretty readily, and still count it among one of my most favorite, fun comics of all time.


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