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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 89: Justice League America #48

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Justice League America #48, which was published by DC and is cover dated March 1991. Enjoy!

Oh, old Nazis!

Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis, the classic team who wrote JLA for years, went a bit off the rails with this story arc, which introduced General Glory and went a bit too far into the ridiculous camp. They had done that a couple of times before, but they were usually short arcs, and “Glory Bound” is five loooooong issues, and it just doesn’t work. But what about the first page, which is drawn by Linda Medley, inked by John Beatty, lettered by Bob Lappan, and colored by Gene D’Angelo.

DeMatteis gives us a nice opening, with the portentous caption boxes that we see all over superhero comics, that leads into the character thinking that his feet hurt. It’s a nice way to subvert our expectations, even though a long-time reader would be expecting it. But if you happened to pick this up cold, you might be pleasantly surprised by the way DeMatteis takes the deadly serious opening lines and immediately twisting them. We get a bit of information – the guy is grumpy, it’s been a long time since he’s been in this area, and maybe he’s come the wrong way. It’s not bad.

I’m not the biggest fan of Medley’s artwork, but she does a decent job with this, although I’m not sure if it works as a splash page. She frames the guy nicely, with the trees arching over him rather naturally, and D’Angelo does a good job with the darker earth tones contrasting with the brighter earth tones of the dude’s outfit. The snake is a nice touch, too. The guy (Schmidt) is fat but still small in comparison to the surroundings, which helps diminish him a bit. His feet are gigantic, and I don’t think it’s explained by the fact that his foot is closer to us than the rest of him – I just think it’s a poorly drawn foot. Medley’s sense of perspective is nice, even though I don’t love her actual skills.

This is not a great example of the silliness of this story arc, although this issue gets goofier as it goes along (it features a giant robot Hitler, for example). It does show how well DeMatteis can flip our perceptions quickly, which is keen. I think this is a pretty good way to get people interested in the rest of the comic, even though the arc doesn’t quite live up to the greatness of the issues before this arc.

Next: It might have made a crappy movie, but the comic is pretty awesome! Perhaps you might waste some time in the archives?

9 Comments

This was the point where this series started taking a dive in quality. The artwork didn’t do this storyline any favors, after JLI has Kevin Maguire, Ty Templeton, and Adam Huges. The writing wasn’t as sharp either, so this was a good jumping off point.

i, of course, didn’t jump off until AFTER Breakdowns which was like 43 parts or something like that! At least afterwards, DC had the good sense to bring on Dan Jugens to do some mediocre work and start this title’s total collapse. [Remember the Yazz? Blarg.]

I don’t necessarily think that her drawing an exaggerated foot means she’s a bad artist – for one, it’s a boot and not the typical foot most artists draw (the very simplified squashed kidney bean thing), so the fact that she actually drew a boot that looked like a boot is nice. I think it’s good cartooning, personally.

I am glad you chose to JLI issue, though! I love this whole run – yes, it gets a little too wacky, but I’ve never minded tongue-in-cheek wackiness. The series may have peaked earlier, but these issues are a lot better than a the stuff that would be published in the following couple of years (and I’m just talking about the JLI/JLA book itself!)

Anonymous: No, I don’t think it makes her a bad artist, I just think the foot is poorly drawn. I do appreciate that she actually drew a nice boot, though. And while I don’t really like this story arc, you’re right that it’s better than what comes after it. “Breakdowns” was okay although far too long, and then the book went completely off the rails!

Think I’m with on this not quite working as a splash page. What would we be missing if this was a single panel? If the point was to show the vastness of the jungle, I would say it needs to be taken farther and reduce the size of the character even further. Tighter panels might actually serve to better show the oppressive nature of thick brush, not being able to see that far ahead of you, etc…

If we compare this to the Walt Simonson splash you just featured, the disparity in the level of storytelling is pretty dramatic.

The clue for next time could be anything! Hoping it’s some LOEG!

@ Greg,
I was actually kind of including “Breakdowns” lol
My experience has been, if it was written by jon and Kieth, I usually enjoy it enough to read AT LEAST twice, and that’s good enough for me. But yeah, things get REALLY bad after Jurgens leaves (although they weren’t all that good before, but at least his pencils were enjoyable lol)

I’m actually more annoyed by the caption insisting he’s obsessed with a single thought, then the thought balloons show at least three…

I love Linda Medley! Though I guess her style just doesn’t work for most superhero stories?

“Glory Bound” was a bit too long, but I liked that the JLA team were pushing the envelope to the point of frustrating readers. While I wouldn’t call what they did “experimental comics,” I feel that they were taking their subversion of superhero comics to the next level. It was inevitable that they would bite off more than they could chew, and the book would get cancelled.

Oh, and I enjoyed “Breakdowns.”

It was the nostalgia of the Bob Lappan lettering that forced me to finally order the first three JLI trades. His under stated style brought a sense of subtilty to the slapstick.

I want to echo that this issue was a clear sign that the Giffen-DeMatteis JLA had passed its creative prime.

At its peak, this title pulled off a really difficult balancing act. It was consistently funny, but it also worked pretty well as a superhero team comic. The bickering heroes pulling at the last moment (against a seemingly insurmountable threat) formula was lifted straight from Silver Age Marvel. Giffen and DeMatteis knew the Lee-Kirby style well-enough that they could employ and mock it at the same time. However, the General Glory arc went too far into pure comedy and, therefore, utterly failed as an action story. The “Breakdowns” arc went too far the other way.

A fair amount of the blame rests with Linda Medley, who really had no facility with action comic storytelling. Playing both sides of the fence is a pretty rare gift and really only Maguire, Hughes and Amanda Conner have fully pulled it off.

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