Justice League Companion by Michael Eury (book review).

An odd thing about TwoMorrows is that their early Companion books can be really hard to get when they’re sold out, and they’re not even available digitally from them. When was the last time you saw their ‘Warren Companion’ on an auction website or even on Amazon? Last year, two other Companion books came up, and I luckily pulled them both. The first of these is ‘Justice League Companion’ by Michael Eury from 2005, cheaper than the price of editions on Amazon. It’s not a totally perfect cover with a couple of creases, but at least I finally had a copy in my possession.

It doesn’t cover all the JLA issues, just up to issue #99, with a promise of a volume 2, although there is no indication of it via Google. I did have a chat with publisher John Morrow about why they stopped doing DC Comics Companion books, and it was down to licensing costs having gone up drastically and it wasn’t affordable. Hence, if you want these early books, you’ll have to keep an eye on the secondary markets and auction sites.

The reason for this review is more to help you decide whether you want to keep watching out for copies to pop up and whether you want to pursue or afford them. It isn’t quite like the other Companion books because it draws material from different sources, including Marvel, oddly enough, as well as explaining how it started, a modern version of the original Justice Society of America. The change from ‘Society’ to ‘League,’ as editor Julius Schwartz points out, was a quiet club word, and the latter was used in all places at the time.

The ‘Justice League Of America’ comic was also the start of modern-day comic book fandom, as Schwartz printed addresses in their letters pages and cooperated with Jerry Bails in him getting a newsletter and then fanzine out, also covered here. Although I do think comic book fandom would have happened sooner or later, one must acknowledge the JLA as the actual recognized starting point of getting things moving.

The more I read, the more I got the impression that this Companion feels like a scrapbook, pulling in various bits and pieces about the characters and the people who wrote and drew it, with a lot of sketches and several interviews. There’s even a checklist of the weird arrows Green Arrow used in the series. You do have to wonder what kind of engineer Oliver Queen was behind the scenes.

The merchandise with photos is oddly extensive, and back then, most of it never reached the UK. Looking at the art on the boxes, it doesn’t look wildly enthusiastic. Even so, if you have targets to aim for in your collections, then this might be a good checklist.

The final section is a look at all 99 comics plus a few crossover appearances with lots of snippets of info in each. You get things like who was on monitor duty to roll-calls and brief plot synopses. For me, though, the ‘Notable Quotes,’ especially from Garner Fox scripts, are hilarious with unintentional (I hope) innuendo and corny lines like Green Lantern in JLA #18, ‘I can’t penetrate his defenses. He turns aside my every thrust.’

It’s interesting to note that the JLA didn’t know each other’s secret identities until JLA #19, although robbed of that memory by Superman at the end of the tale. The actual reveals were slowly released over later issues.

Looking over some of the Justice League’s policies did raise a few question marks for me, especially if members were too much on their own cases to attend monthly meetings and even monitor duty. I mean, how do you set up rotas with that kind of problem, and who’s going to look after their territory, let alone their secret identity occupation while they’re watching a monitor? Then there is the little matter of their trophy room, obligatory for any DC superhero, but also teams. You would think that for any supervillain, getting access to such rooms would be a bigger prize than any other secrets they might have.

If you’re into the early JLA, then it’s worth picking up for the information it carries. It will no doubt supplement your collection. It can certainly act as a checklist for the number of Neal Adams covers and #94 where he contributed 4 pages. It also explains why they rarely appear on the scene.

GF Willmetts

March 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 209 page illustrated softcover. Price: ?? (UK). ISSN: 1932-6904)

check out website: www.TwoMorrows.com

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