by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
July 21, 1999
Reviews in this issue:
For Better or Worse - The Justice Society Returns
For Better or Worse
Since the advent of The Yellow Kid, a market has
existed for reprints of comic strips. Supermarket racks teem with compilations
of Beetle Bailey and Family Circus; patrons of bookstores
encounter larger anthologies. Frequent reprinting of older anthologies provides
a barometer of the continuing interest in continuity strips such as Doonesbury
and Lynn Johnston's For Better or Worse.
Polls consistently give high ratings to Johnston's
fictional Pattersons, a family akin to the cartoonist's own. The characters age
in real time and encounter the hilarious and dark sides of life. Death and
violence have touched characters close to the Pattersons, but not the family
In 1995, the infant April was rescued from drowning by
Farley, the family's aging sheepdog, who died as a consequence.
Some readers were aghast; others applauded the realism.
Consistent readers shouldn't have been surprised. Johnston foreshadowed the
event thoroughly. Two recent anthologies make this clear.
In "Starting from Scratch" (McMeel and Andrews,
1996), Farley sired a litter of pup": including Edgar, whom the Pattersons
adopted. Prior to that, we find allusions to Parley's age and physical
deterioration. The book ends with Parley's death and burial.
In a shrewd effort to capitalize on public interest, the
publisher has issued "Remembering Farley, reprise of sequences from his
birth onwards. Readers can follow his growth from tiny puppy to aging hero.
(This reader found an earlier and forgotten reference to Farley's age.)
Effective closure is provided by the inclusion of strips from the summer of 1995
which depict the oldest child's first visit to Parley's grave.
Those who own the original For Better or Worse
anthologies may not want the repackaged "tribute," but this format
does allow a view of Johnston's consistent skill at characterization and plot
If aging humans are allowed to die in the next few years,
it, will be interesting to see how the public reacts. No comedy strip has
allowed a major character to die onstage.
Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter
The Justice Society Returns
Anyone with the slightest interest in DC Comic's oldest
team of super heroes, the Justice Society of America, will want the latest
series based on their adventures, The Justice Society Returns.
This is a complex package. There are two issues of All
Star Comics that provide the beginning and ending episodes. There are also
seven separately titled issues that contain the "in-between" parts of
the story. (All-Star was the venerable title in which the justice Society
appeared from 1939--1951.)
DC uses the original All-Star logo and its
original corporate logo. The story structure also resembles that of classic
Justice Society stories. The seven separate issues have different artists,
another homage to the past.
For the separate issues, DC has revived titles familiar
to Golden Age comics collectors: Adventure, All-American, National,
Sensation, Smash, Star-Spangled and Thrilling. (Some of those were
published by Quality, a firm acquired by DC in the 1950's.)
There are too many artists and writers involved to
mention, but the writing is generally good. Some of the political ideas are more
typical of the late 1990's than the mid-1940's.
There is more variation in the art. The best art is in National
and Star- Spangled. I also give National credit for its effective
use of Mr. Terrific, a very obscure character.
The narrator of the series is Hourman but he does not
dominate. A strength of the series is an exploration of the relationship of
weaker members of the Justice Society to the "powerhouses" such as
Green Lantern or Hawkman. The treatment of Johnny Thunder, Atom, and Mr.
Terrific adds considerable depth to their characters.
I had almost forgotten DC's experiments with sword and
sorcery characters in the 1970's. Most lasted for only a few issues,
particularly Stalker. That character becomes the major antagonist for the
This elaborate package is a prelude to a massive
reworking of the Justice Society. Other attempts have not worked well, but I
hope DC can set it right this time.
Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter
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