The Real Men Of Steel

If there was only one comic series in the whole world, I’d want it to be Justice Society of America. The entire series is just so brilliant, so well written and so chock full of greatness that each issue needs four or five readings just to let it all sink in. It’s not a difficult read either – the pages and panels draw you right through each issue; it’s just that as soon as you’ve hit the end, you find yourself drawn to re-read it, immediately. It’s that good.

Amid all of the increasingly ridiculous “Crisis… this” and “World War… that” where DC and Marvel compete to see which comic publisher can pull as many of their titles into world-spanning epics, it’s terrific to find a comic that stands on it’s own merits, a series that’s happy just to tell it’s tales, and tell them in such a way that you really don’t need to have 30 years’ of comicbook knowledge to enjoy them for what they are.

You don’t need it, but it helps.

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The Superman of the JSA. Older, wiser and just plain better. Poser, no postwork.

Y’see, Justice Society boasts a cast that spans the entire history of the DC Universe. It’s members include the oldest, most senior characters from the DC Universe, as well as the newest recruits. That’s right at the heart of it’s remit too – where the Justice League‘s focus is world-spanning epic adventures where the very fate of the universe is at stake (again), the Society‘s goal is to be there to train and hand over the mantle as new heroes arise. Their job, first and foremost, is to train the new heroes how to be heroes, to pass on their years of experience and ensure that they fully understand their roles and responsibilities in society. Where the League is set up the contain the best that the DC Universe has to offer, the Society trains, aids and supports heroes, so they’re all the best they can be.

It manages this, yet still doesn’t fall into the X-Men trap where the senior members are smug bastards and all the rest treated like children; it’s a Society not a school, and every member is given airtime and respect by the writers.

The JSA has picked up quite a lot of members in the current run, with Jay Garrick (the original Flash, and my favourite), Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern) and Ted Grant (Wildcat! Oh yeh!) as the old guard amid a cast including Power Girl (cousin to an alternate-Earth Superman and owner of the largest breasts in superherodom), husband-and-wife duo Liberty Belle and Hourman, the wonderful, cuckoo-ass-crazy Starman and blind super-surgeon Doctor Mid-Nite. And that’s just scratching the surface of it’s members. All praise to wikipedia for compiling a complete list. It’s about halfway down the page.

I could – and probably will – rave about each and every one of the members, from the teenage non-stop-talking Cyclone to the tragic unwilling hero Citizen Steel. They’ve all been given time in the limelight in this series, and they’re all utterly beautifully portrayed as rounded, yet heroic, individuals.

The Superman of the JSA is a case in point. Now, I’m not usually a Superman fan. He’s just too clean cut, too perfect and too damned smug for my liking. I prefer my heroes flawed, to know pain as well as happiness. I like them when they learn from their mistakes and develop over time instead of being the damned happy world-saving they’ve been all their careers. Your regular Superman needs a darned good slap, I reckon.

The Superman of the JSA fixes all that. He’s Superman from Earth-22 pulled into this timeline by one of Starman’s black holes. He’s old, wiser and more experienced. He’s seen war and suffers nightmares as a result. This is a Superman I can relate to – it’s a Superman who failed to save the lives of Lois, Perry and Jimmy Olsen when the Joker attacked the Daily Planet. It’s a Superman who’s faced death and it’s consequences rather than one that’s a good ol’ boy eating apple pie on the farm after saving the world. In other words – it’s a kickass version of Superman, a time bomb of emotions and grief who needs the support of the JSA more than they need him.

And that’s just one member of the JSA of many. God help me, I love them all, and so do my boys. Maybe you would too!

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