RETRO REVIEW: Justice League of America # 1

Justice League of America # 1 - 1960 Style

Way back in the late summer, probably during August, of the year 1960, D C Comics published Justice league of America # 1.  Interestingly, the book is not numbered, nor is there a cover date anywhere to be found on the cover.  The second issue was cover dated, January 1961, so I guess issue number one was likely November 1961, hence the guess that the comic was on the racks during August of 1960.

The Justice League was first introduced to the world in three issues of The Brave and the Bold, issues 28, 29 and 30 earlier in 1960, by editor Julius (Julie) Schwartz.  He chose to revive the old Justice Society of America, using the newly created heroes of the Silver Age.  He has said;” To me, society meant something you found on Park Avenue.  I felt League was a stronger word, one that the readers could identify with because of the baseball leagues.”

And Julie placed on his team, Flash and Wonder Woman, who already had solo books.  He also placed Green Lantern on the team, as he had just finished his introductory stories in Showcase.  But who else?  He decided to go with J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, who was carrying a backup strip in Detective Comics and also Aquaman, who had a backup strip in Adventure Comics.

Of course, Superman and Batman were also placed on team.  Not quite a baseball team number of players, but a darn good start.  Even though in the beginning Schwartz kept Superman and Batman off the covers and mostly absence from the League’s adventures, as they were already featured in so many other D C comics!  Schwartz certainly didn’t want to be the cause of sales decreasing on the Superman and Batman books!

So that brings us back to Justice League of America # 1, not to be confused by the new Justice League # 1, part of the new D C 52, on the stands right now.  Back in 1960, behind a lovely cover pencilled and inked by Murphy Anderson, featuring The Flash playing chess, with his fellow Justice League members as chess pieces, against a strange, three-eyed alien.  And the alien is thinking to himself, that he’s got the game rigged, so that each time the Flash makes a move, a team member disappears!

The story is written by Gardner Fox and is entitled; “The World Of No Return!“.  It is pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Bernard Sachs.  Oh, by the way the alien is named; Despero.  A great name for a villain!  The story begins with the individual JLA members staving off some disaster or another and the Flash discovering a couple of green-haired aliens, who have fled to the Earth, to perfect a weapon to use against a tyrant named Despero, who rules their world, Kalanor, by mind control.

Flash sets up the aliens in a cave and rushes to the Justice League’s secret sanctuary, only to find Despero already there!  He already has the other Justice League members under his mind control, but “being a sportsman”, Despero has decided to give Flash a chance and challenges him to a game, not exactly chess, but played on what looks like a chessboard.  Flash’s game pieces are small figures of his teammates.

As Flash plays, the individual members of the JLA are teleported to another dimension, where they face life and death adventures!  but apparently, Despero couldn’t send them each to a different dimension, as he sends two members to the same dimension.  Wonder Woman and Superman end up in the same dimension.  Aquaman and Green Lantern end up together, as does Batman and the Martian Manhunter!  And working together with each other, they all survive Despero’s plans.

But which hero saves the day?

That a great question!  In fact it’s none of the heroes, nope Flash doesn’t win the day, nor any of the other top-notch heroes, its regular ol’ human, Snapper Carr, the JLA’s “honorary member”!  You see, he has sneaked on board Despero’s ship and he manages to turn Despero’s energy-absorbing machine on the villain.  And of course the Justice League then arrives back on earth, with absolutely no explanation of how they managed to return.  Oh well, that’s the Silver Age D C comic book mentality!  A far-fetched solution from out of the blue!

That wraps up issue number one of the Justice League of America.  I give it only three (3) out of five (5) Legion Flight Rings.  The story is marred by the ending and the Sekowsky artwork is nothing special, simply serviceable.  Just how did he manage to draw the JLA, with his odd “wide-shaped” body style, for so many issues?  I’m sure you’ll agree that Jim Lee‘s new Justice League looks a lot better!

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.


  1. Would you believe I’ve never read this? Your recap makes me want to! Can I borrow your copy . . . ? 🙂

  2. Well, JJ, I will tell you, I would gladly loan out my copy, as its found in the first Justice League of America Archive hardcover. Not quite the valuable comic that the original JLA # 1 is though. My actual comic book Justice League collection begins with issue number 12.

    But if you seriously want to read the early JLA, I would be happy to loan out my book or comics to you! You seem a trustworthy kind of guy! 🙂

  3. You see how I manhandle comics when I get into doing a review, so you might want to rethink your offer . . . !

    I managed to get fully caught up on new comics on the eve of the New 52, so if I can maintain that pace I would love to borrow your JLA Archives for a week. I’ll let you know; thank you, sir!

  4. Orville Smith says:

    On the world to which Wonder Woman is teleported, she lassoes a tree, but the spread of all the branches is too big and much too wide for the lasso’s loop to encircle.

  5. Orville, you just gotta love those Silver Age comics from DC! They didn’t care if they made sense or not!

  6. Paul Zuckerman says:

    Greg– I would give JLA 1 a MUCH higher rating! Of course, I was eight when it came out, and remember seeing the ad in a Superboy comic, which I drooled over, until I could get the book!

    I much prefer Sekowsky’s direct and clear style (particularly on the early issues of JLA) over Lee’s over-rendered artwork. Sekowsky may have been no one’s first choice, but he was able to sufficiently ape the disparate styles of the characters’ principal artists in a way that melded them into an artistic cohesive whole. And, as many pointed out, Sekowsky’s characters didn’t look like ballet dancers when they went into battle–they were askew in every direction, arms and legs flailing, dynamic motion and all. He is an underrated artist!

    As for author Fox’s story–he had a lot of plot to tell, and he did it efficiently and smoothly. How did the characters get home? He does explain it! Superman can travel through space and he quickly discovered where the others were, presumably using his telescopic vision; he transported Wonder Woman “in about a minute”. She just took a deep breath! The planets were all in the same system.

    As for GL and Aquaman, they borrowed one of the undersea vehicles on the planet, and GL turned it into a spaceship. GL could easily ask his ring to find the others. And, when they got to the planet on which Batman, J’onn J’onzz and Flash were, they used the dimensional traveler, a ship, which one of Despero’s henchmen had arrived in.

    Fox did not leave any loose ends open and he didn’t need a year to tell his story. Having Snapper save the day at the end was a way of telling the readers that this kid was in the JLA for a good reason. At eight, I could appreciate that! I always liked Snapper, and didn’t care for the way that O’Neill later disposed of him.

    As for the publication date, DC titles in the 40s through the mid 60s rarely had a number one on the cover. The feeling in those days was that the number one would scare off readers. Strange, but true!

    The date is clearly marked on the first page indicia, and is readily available from many on-line sources. But, your surmise was correct, it was the November issue, or, more accurately, the October-November issue. DC’s bi-monthly books would only show the second month on the covers, but in the indicia, they always had both months listed.

  7. Greg Turner says:

    Paul, Thanks for your thoughts on Justice League of America # 1. It’s always great to hear some one else, well thought out comments/response to my reviews. Sure I might have given the book a better rating, but I just felt that I couldn’t when I wrote this back in 2011.

    Nothing against it, I’d love to have an original copy in my collection, but I still stand by my rating. It’s not great, but it’s not awful either. It’s just good and frankly that’s okay.

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