Next week on the Major Spoilers Podcast, the crew take a look at DC’s JSA: The Golden Age by James Robinson – yes the same fellow behind Starman.

From Publisher’s Weekly

Clearly influenced by Alan Moore’s Watchmen, this reissue depicts DC’s superheroes from the 1940s hanging up their capes following the end of WWII. Whereas Moore’s superheroes were forced into retirement, here the heroes succumb to disillusionment, personality flaws and even madness. Robinson unpersuasively projects the dark pessimism of 1990s superhero comics onto the idealistic, committed heroes of half a century before. One of these “mystery men,” Tex Thompson, alias the Americommando, enters politics and initiates a government project that uses atomic power to create Dynaman, a “superman” who becomes a living weapon against the Soviets. Beneath their patriotic rhetoric, Thompson and Dynaman conspire to become dictators. But Robinson never explains why the “greatest generation” that just defeated fascism abroad would embrace a homegrown version. By revealing that Thompson’s and Dynaman’s identities have been usurped by impostors, Robinson shies away from demonstrating how an American superhero could morph into a neo-Nazi übermensch. Smith’s realistic artwork and mastery of gesture and facial expression bring out all the dramatic potential in Robinson’s scenario. But Darwyn Cooke’s recent The New Frontier paints a more convincing postwar portrait of DC’s superheroes. (June)

We want to know what you think of the four-issue mini-series from 1993.  Post your comments below and they may be included in the show.  My guess is there are many Major Spoilers readers who have never heard of this Elseworld’s title.  For those of you who are in the dark, what topic areas do you want us to talk about in this detailed discussion?

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. Josh P.
    September 12, 2008 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    This made me fall in love with the golden age DC characters. If not for this, I would probably not have picked up Sandman Mystery Theatre or Starman, or searched for back issues of All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc.

  2. Craig M.
    September 12, 2008 at 8:17 pm — Reply

    I loved this story. As for the comment in the quote about the “greatest generation” falling for homegrown fascism, does the writer not remember Joe McCarthy?

  3. Scott C.
    September 13, 2008 at 8:51 am — Reply

    In my opinion this is Robinson’s and Smith’s greatest work. I collected most of the All Star Squadron series I read this before Watchmen so, I really didn’t have the comparison that publisher’s weekly had. Reading that review I see the similarity between the failures of the early heroes in Watchmen but I feel they diverge after that. Watchmen’s golden age plays a pivotal part of the storyline but Golden Age stays within that timeframe growing upon it. Dr. Manhattan is Watchmen’s sole superpower being whereas the Golden Age had tons of them. More importantly while in Watchmen the heroes try to find a new way to be heroes the Golden Age heroes fight with the same heroism they always had overcoming any short failings to defeat the villain.

  4. Cart
    September 13, 2008 at 9:32 am — Reply

    I had picked up the first issue when it was originally published, and believe it or not, never was able to find the trade to complete the story until last week. It really is an outstanding story. It captured the feeling of an “event” book moreso then most of the story lines that get passed off as such these days. One thing that struck me is that it would seem to meld in nicely with New Frontier, almost as if the 2 could act as bookends to transation the DCU from what it was to what it became. Excellent read, VERY highly recommended. Thanks for spotlighting it, as I really do feel that it gets shorted a lot. (Probably because at the time it came out not many readers knew much about the JSA, and without any of the big 3 in the book, it was probably a low seller.) And Craig, McCarthy was in the story as the person who took up the “cause” later.

  5. ykw
    September 14, 2008 at 12:22 pm — Reply

    “I loved this story. As for the comment in the quote about the ‘greatest generation’ falling for homegrown fascism, does the writer not remember Joe McCarthy?”

    Or, for that matter, McCarthy’s fellow “Progressive”, FDR? “Can’t happen here”? Happened. Over and over. Started with Teddy Roosevelt and keeps happening to this very day. Both parties. Some elections (like this one), both parties actively compete with one another to see which can be the MOST Fascist (e.g., that horrible “national service” forum).

    TGA fell into the same cliched trap that befell NEW FRONTIER: an anxious compulsion to portray the creator’s politics as the epitome of all that is good and pure while deriding anyone who veers away in even the slightest respect as wicked and irredeemable. In other words, supposedly anti-Fascist works became the very model of actual Fascism.

    Plus there was all that ickiness about the JSAers faking the Spear Of Destiny stories to cover up their paralysis in the face of the Nazi terror. As if fear of Hitler alone would have kept the Spectre from turning him into tapioca the first chance he got.

  6. Dr. Bolty
    September 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm — Reply

    It wasn’t fear of Hitler, it was fear of a Nazi supervillain who could negate their powers and leave them vulnerable to death by bullet or bayonet. Also, Spectre was absent from the story; Elseworlds and all applying, he, Wonder Woman, and Dr. Fate may have been kept out deliberately to keep the story more grounded in reality, history, and humanity.

    Anyway, I re-read Golden Age recently and found that it was a pretty bad story on closer analysis. The whole plot is driven by coincidence, only slightly abetted by the years-long timeframe of the story; but while a case can be made for Manhunter and Fatman meeting in a tavern, or Miss America reading Thompson’s diary at the right time, or Thompson/Ultra-Humanite keeping a diary filled with crippling secrets to begin with, or Hawkman taking up an interest in performing (not undergoing, PERFORMING, undergoing it made sense in the context) hypnotic regression – it is damn near impossible to excuse Alan Scott JUST HAPPENING to be testifying before the HUAC the exact day of the big battle.

    I felt like Robinson was writing backwards; he wanted to show the Golden Age superheroes fighting a super-powered Hitler, then worked out all the finicky details that would lead to that event. Everything along the way seemed like a frantic attempt to cram in cool moments featuring all of the major heroes. The characters themselves were all portrayed in intriguing ways, but much of it felt pointless once the whole thing devolved into a massive brawl – a good brawl, mind you, but one that made all of the cool character sketches feel like decoration. Captain Triumph is the only hero that I felt had a complete, interesting character arc; Johnny Quick and Atom came close, although Atom felt a little forced down the stretch.

    Golden Age was one of those stories that I really wanted to love, but it falls flat on the basis of contrived (I don’t want to say lazy, I think Robinson was just broke for ideas on how to move the plot forward) plotting and weirdly incomplete characterization. Robinson in general seems to be a great first read, poor re-read for me.

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