Highlights From The History Of The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes
Robert Greenberger’s name will be familiar to many fans for his work in comics and for the dozen plus Star Trek books to his credit. With his newest work, Greenberger turns his attention to superhero team affectionately called the World’s Greatest Super Heroes. As you can imagine, this is an enormous amount of material spanning nearly the entirety of the Justice League’s history starting its inception up to recent months while alluding to events in this summer’s No Justice which had yet to be published. The effort to choose only 100 greatest moments would seem like a dizzying task for one person. Greenberger consulted former writers such as Mark Waid and Gerry Conway, among several others, former editors and current editor Brian Cunningham as well as comics historian John Wells. Greenberger chooses a thematic approach over a chronological one and I must say I prefer this method because it presents the information in a more insightful fashion.
This book is a temptation. It eyes me from the coffee table and my desk (it follows me) and dares me to open it and I can’t resist. All sense of time disappears while looking through its pages, amazed by the selections and variety of artists — and there have been many — who’ve drawn the series. You know the long list of names – the premier artist Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin who holds the record as longest running artist, George Peres, Bryan Hitch, Ivan Reis, Alan Davis, Kevin Maguire, and many others are represented here. Even Mike Sekowsky whose work on JLA as well as Wonder Woman, the last half dozen issues of Metal Men, or Supergirl I disliked (to refrain from hyperbole) appeals to me now as charming and quirky in the best sense of those adjectives. A majority of illustrations are full page and some are double page spreads while many other pages highlight illos ranging from spot size all the way up to half paged.
Greenberger’s writing is well researched and possessed a concise and engaging style that both piques and satisfies curiosity. Each chapter is filled with details and commentary on a single subject ranging from membership, headquarters, aliens, occult, allies, enemies, and concluding with the Justice League’s greatest battles. Readers may find themselves drawn more to certain chapters than others. Teams, allies, and enemies are undoubtedly the biggest draws for most fans and I count myself in that group but I found myself gravitating to other chapters. For instance, reading the chapter about the team’s various headquarters reinforces how creators have struck a balance between technological advances and the humanity of the heroes themselves. Those advances sometimes took cues from the real world. I remember watching with astonishment the Apollo moon landing in July, 1969 and marveling at the Justice League’s first satellite headquarters when it debuted in the months following. At one time events in comics were rare if they happened at all. The annual Justice League and Justice Society team up during the Silver and Bronze ages were always much anticipated and it’s pleasing to find them figuring prominently in the Allies section. While aliens like Starro, Despero, and Kanjar Ro are firmly entrenched as enemies, at least in my mind, Greenberger proves that various occult forces have forcefully confronted the Justice League on numerous occasions dating all the way back to the alliteratively titled “Secret of the Sinister Sorcerers” from issue #2!
There is one low point among the 100 greatest moments chosen to for representation and this is a sore topic among many fans. It occurs in the chapter devoted to enemes and it involves the rape of beloved Sue Dibney by Dr Light as conceived and written by then JLA writer Brad Meltzer. Light’s first encounter fighting the Justice League occurred in Justice League of America #12 (1962) when comics were typically far more naive. The striking cover, included here, shows Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter frozen in beams of light emanating from the villain’s quirky looking device. This is the 1960s after all and quirky and bizarre contraptions were de rigeur! It’s preceded by the double page spread leading up to the violent incident in Identity Crisis #2 and a paragraph of text which contains a single line mentioning Sue. Greenberger refers to the comic as “controversial” and undoubtedly it was. While the tragic incident and all the consequences it had for characters and fans can’t be swept away I think a better option would have been simply to include Light’s first appearance cover and to discuss the matter in more detail, including how Meltzer and DC were criticized, within the chapter discussion and chosen another villain or event for these two pages befitting the book’s 100 greatest moments theme. Simply put, this isn’t that.
Allow me to talk about the qualities of the book from the design and production aspects. Book designer Maria P Cabardo brings her skills to the project. A peek behind the oversized book’s dust jacket reveals the designs are reproduced on the hard covers. The Justice League has a remarkably long history of publication and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Printing and coloring technology have changed remarkably during that same period. The coloring of reproductions from earlier periods, say the 1960s, is masterfully reconstructed to remain true to the time period’s charm while avoiding the downfall of low dpi resolution. The paper has a good weight and feel to it and a matte finish ensures that glare is kept to a minimum. Place the book on a table and open up to any page and you’ll see it lies flat. Or maybe you won’t notice that because you won’t be annoyed trying to keep the pages open yourself. This is due to the sewn binding used to attach the pages to the book spine; a more expensive technique for certain but one which also makes for a sturdy book that will last for years and years.
Team rosters have always been a popular topic for nerds. Once upon a time I could recall that information at a moment’s notice. Thanks to Philip Buchanan’s expertise, a handy reference of how the Justice League and its various affiliated teams have grown and changed makes for a useful resource to round out the book.
Justice League 100 Greatest Moments is a beautiful and thoroughly informative book and I’ve enjoyed the time spent reading and looking through it and all the memories it’s invoked for me. Whether you’re a fan of a certain age or not, I think you will too.
Look for Justice League 100 Greatest Moments at your local comic shop or bookstore (ISBN 978-0-78583614-8) or purchase it from Amazon.