Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Justice #1

Justice #1, November 1986, Marvel Comics Group
writer: Archie Goodwin
artists: Geof Isherwood, Joe Delbeato, Jack Fury
letterer: Rick Parker
colorist: Bob Sharen
editors: Michael Higgins, Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

I know, I know. We were almost on a roll. After two older issues with unique offerings to the medium, I dig out another "number one" to another long-dead series. Justice is the last of my Independence Day weekend shopping spree, so, aside from the handful of Silver Age books I picked up at the hobby shop yesterday, which I intend to spread out over the rest of the month, I'm back to square one. I have to look for comics again. The search has become as enjoyable as the result.

Or in the case of the issue in question, more enjoyable. When Archie Goodwin passed away awhile back, I remember reading pages of fond farewells from his peers and admirers. Honestly, as a newbie to comics (to know as much as some of these statesmen of comics do, you'd have to collect for much longer than fifteen years), I'd barely heard of him. I was all McFarlaned and Liefelded. The way I read it, Goodwin was a pioneer, a true craftsman of comics. He earned the respect of those above and below him through his handling of the genre as an art and a business. I'm glad I got that impression.

Because if my opinion of Archie Goodwin sprang from my impression of his series Justice, I'd think the guy was a looney tune.

In Marvel's short-lived New Universe (the point of which still eludes me), Justice was a dimensional outcast, stranded on our world with an ability to see the auras of evil people. With one hand, he could generate a hard-light shield, with the other, a blast of energy he oddly calls his "sword." He's dressed like a hair band front man, gaudy even by late '80s standards. And the class of evil he encounters, punks with names like Slits, Pink, Snap, Regis, and Nester, speaks the true volume of his righteous plight. Justice is dated and ridiculous, a pyrotechnic display that gives fodder to any critic of superhero comics. I barely made it through this issue.

Give me strength.

Even Shakespeare wrote a dud or two, right? For every Good Will Hunting, an entertainer has a Reindeer Games to his credit, as well, yes? Sometimes a work -- a book, a comic book, a movie, whatever -- is so difficult to swallow, I actually try to imagine its originator at the keyboard, grasping for inspiration, producing that pile of pop culture crap. I try to sympathize, as one who has been held hostage by the blank page myself. As one who has had a job to do, a boss demanding results, and all that. Sometimes it helps the heap go down easier.

Time helps, too. When the "New Universe" hit the stands two decades ago, I imagine Marvel hyped these series as the second coming of comics. Justice and its brethren were probably perceived as potentially cutting edge material, by mainstream comics' standards. Now, finding this 75 cent #1 issue for 25 cents twenty years later, I can read the book with some perspective. I can see the book for what it is, rather than how it saw itself, hot off the press.

After all, justice is blind, eh? (If you think that's a cheesy way to end this post, how 'bout this line from Justice, from a drug dealer hustling a broke, eager junkie: "I knock chicks who yell at me flat on their keisters." Okay? 'Nuff said?)

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