Sunday, November 22, 2015

Strength of Superboy, Wisdom of Harmonia, Uh...

According to the @thisdayincomics Twitter account, the Justice Society first appeared in comics seventy-five years ago today. So that's something: seventy-five years of superhero teams.

I've touched on the history of superhero teams before, but I want to touch on something else here. The point of the Justice Society was to take existing characters and have them all appear in the same comic book. This is also how we got the Justice League, the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Teen Titans. More or less. The identities of the characters came before the identity of the team.

But that wasn't really what happened with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The origins and identities of the individual characters are not identical, but they all (with, I know, a couple of exceptions) share the common feature of featuring interplanetary stuff in the future. And certainly no Legionnaire has been able to establish much of an identity outside of the context of the Legion. The identity of the team comes before the identities of the characters.

So that's not like the Justice Society. There are other teams for whom the same is true, though, like the Fantastic Four and the Zoo Crew. The Metal Men, there's another one. But this model of superteam has its origins in another group that began in the early 1940s: the Marvel Family. They aren't a perfect example of the type, in that the individual Marvels appeared in comics solo with regularity. But they had so much in common with each other that their group identity was basically inseparable from their superheroic identity. Similar costumes, similar names, same powers, related origins...

That's all. Just something I happened to think of.

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