All The Stars There Are in (Super-hero) Heaven!
The 1970s Justice Society Revival-All-Starring the Original Cast!
by Roy Thomas
(Writer, All-Star Comics #63-74, DC Special #29, Adventure Comics #461-466;
plus co-writer on All-Star #59 & #62)
Ego Vol. 3 #14
In Alter Ego #14, you'll find Roy's take on the 1970s JSA revival. You can
find mini-interviews with some of the other participants: Gerry
Conway, Ric Estrada, Keith
Giffen, Al Milgrom & Joe
Was it a foggy day in London-town? Paul Levitz says this is a photo of "me
and Joe [Staton] on the Thames, photographed by his wife Hilarie, circa 1978
or 1979-whichever year the [Science Fiction] Worldcon was held in Brighton."
Today, of course, Paul is president and publisher of DC Comics, but in the late
1970s he was the writer of All-Star Comics.
RT: You're listed as "assistant editor" even in All-Star #58.
How did that come about?
PAUL LEVITZ: I think Joe Orlando hooked me up with Gerry when Gerry started
freelance-editing. I could use another day's per diem (that was how my deal
worked while I was in college), and Gerry could use someone who was around a
few days a week and could look in on anything he needed. I helped Gerry on almost
all his books, although I think Jack Harris pitched in on Blackhawk, as he was
a great fan of the original and I was not. I just loved working on All-Star,
after a lifetime as a JSA fan.
RT: Seems to me I heard somewhere that Wally was not happy inking Ric.
LEVITZ: The structure of the deal that Ric and Woody were under was also
used for books done by Jose Garcia-Lopez and Woody... and given that Ric was
a master cartoonist and José a master illustrator, there's no question
Woody had to put in more work on Ric's stuff for the same money, and probably
didn't love it. For what Ric was being paid (a pittance, even by the standards
of the time), he was putting a fair amount in.
RT: Joe Orlando is usually given credit for having designed Power Girl,
but Amazing World of DC Comics #6 featured what looks like a design sketch by
LEVITZ: I remember watching Joe do his initial drawings, but I doubt
they survive. He didn't treasure his sketches-just threw them off.
RT: Already by issue #59 you are credited with an "assist"
to Gerry as writer. What did you do on "Brainwave Blows Up"? Did you
have enough knowledge of Brain Wave and Degaton to know that they looked all
wrong, and that Degaton wasn't a scientific genius in the original All-Star?
LEVITZ: I think I broke down #59's plot for Gerry when he got behind.
We did that a couple of times. He'd verbally lay out the logic, and I'd do an
overnight structure and type job. Not much creative work on my part. I had read
all the JSA stories by then in DC's library, but I don't recall our making a
great effort at fidelity.
RT: Did Gerry or you handle the letters pages while he was editor?
LEVITZ: I wrote the texts for #58-74. Frighteningly, I think I've written
more text pages for comics than anyone, at least at DC or Marvel... a dubious
RT: You're listed for "patter" on #62-meaning, you wrote the
LEVITZ: Gerry had left to go back to Marvel. I hated doing #62, because
at that stage I had no sympathy for Keith [Giffen]'s work (ironic, isn't it,
given the quantity of work we later did together on Legion)-and I vividly remember
dialoguing that job in three hours one night while I was living at Mercer Street.
RT: What did you think of the Giffen/Wood combination? And why did Keith
leave the book after #63?
LEVITZ: In theory, Giffen/Wood could work well. I don't recall why Keith
left at that point, but I was happy about it.
RT: Why did Joe become editor when Jerry left, and not you? (You stayed
assistant editor, though.)
LEVITZ: I talked Joe into editing the book so I could write it. At that
point DC had no writer/editors, and God knows I wasn't competent to be one,
anyway. Joe humored me.
RT: #63 was the first issue for which you got solo credit. Was there
ever any chance that you wouldn't write it?
LEVITZ: If Gerry had left during Carmine's run, I probably wouldn't have
gotten the chance; but I had the good fortune to be sucking up far more writing
assignments than I should have as he left, and "JSA" was a high priority
RT: As late as #64's letters page, you're still talking as if Wally
will continue to draw and even plot All-Star-but the very next issue, he's gone.
How and why, if you recall?
LEVITZ: No memory.
RT: You've written that Wally wanted to remove the bare circle on Power
Girl's chest. (Oddly, it appears on his cover for #64... maybe drawn in by a
staffer? But her chest area is colored all white!)
LEVITZ: Woody thought it was sexier. Kinda fun to see Wood and Orlando
arguing about what makes drawing a girl sexy.
RT: Wally gets credit for plot and art in #64, but in a letters page
you said the two of you discussed the plot. Was it really co-plotting?
LEVITZ: That's #65. I think he had a particular bunch of scenes he wanted
to draw, so I deferred.
RT: Did you do most of your "JSA" writing script-in-advance,
or what was then called "Marvel style"?
LEVITZ: Without checking my records, I think I wrote all my "JSA"
work plot/dialogue. Gerry started me on that good foot, and since most of the
run was with Joe Staton, a favorite collaborator, I'm sure I stayed that way.
RT: With #66 you put a big "Justice Society of America" logo
on an All-Star cover for the first time ever. Did you feel the "Super-Squad"
thing was just too unwieldy?
LEVITZ: I never cared for "Super-Squad." Guess I'm a traditionalist.
RT: How did Joe Staton and Bob Layton become the art team?
LEVITZ: They were two of the upcoming "young Turks," and loved
the history of the characters... and, like most accidents in our field, they
probably were available when Woody quit. I loved working with them.
RT: In #67 you write in the third person that this is only the second
issue that Paul Levitz wrote "without Keith or Wally altering his plots."
Did they alter a lot?
LEVITZ: Keith's always been one to alter plots. On Legion of Super-heroes
we played regular games of "Can you top this?"-twisting each other's
ideas until the result was best. On All-Star I have less happy memories, though
that may have been both our youth. Woody altered ideas and pacing, and not always
for the better at that stage of his life.
RT: The "Untold Origin" issue of DC Special came out about
this time, probably your finest hour on "JSA." How did that plotline
come about-the invasion of England, and all? How much research did you do? Did
you actually read A Man Called Intrepid, which was a fairly new book at that
LEVITZ: I definitely read it. I still have my beat-up first edition from
1976. Probably was deep in Churchill at the time, too. I think that's when I
discovered his six-volume history of World War II.
RT: What made you think of using the Spear of Destiny the way Steve
Englehart had handled it in a fairly recent mystery story?
LEVITZ: I either edited or assisted on the Weird War Tales story you're
referencing, and it was fresh in my mind.
RT: You don't by any chance have a black-&-white of Neal Adams'
cover for the origin, do you?
LEVITZ: Gave the original to Jim Lee as a present a few years back. I'm
sure he still has it.
Neal Adams' cover for the JSA origin issue (DC Special #29) was a real gem!
Many thanks to comic book artist/writer Jim Lee for sending us a scan of the
original art. © 2002 DC Comics.
RT: Starting in #68 you listed yourself, Staton, and Layton as "storytellers."
Is this because Joe partook in plotting?
LEVITZ: Both of them kibitzed ideas.
RT: #69 introduced The Huntress. How and why was she created?
LEVITZ: Bob Layton suggested we do a new Batgirl, and I went from that
to a new Huntress, whom Joe Orlando designed.
RT: Why did you have The Star-Spangled Kid quit the JSA in #71?
LEVITZ: Never a favorite of mine, and complex backstory.
RT: You must've liked All-Star expanding to extra-size with #74. When,
after only one issue, the so-called "Implosion" of 1978 happened-with
DC cutting back many of its titles-did you (and/or Joe Orlando) look for a berth
for the JSA? The group went from a big book to no book overnight. You clearly
had little warning, hence the optimistic letters page.
LEVITZ: As the principal juggler of where to land everything in the Implosion,
I'm sure I looked after the JSA (and, to be fair, myself-since I loved the assignment
and was giving up Legion to cut my page count down enough to let me keep it).
RT: Joe Staton took over full art chores with #461. Was he or you unhappy
with Giella, or had he only been meant to be a fill-in inker for two issues?
LEVITZ: We'd had a tough time matching inkers to Joe in that period-on
Legion, as well. If memory serves, since the page counts on "JSA"
became variable because of the switch to Adventure, it was easier to let him
RT: Any late thoughts about Batman's death in Adventure #462?
LEVITZ: It's one of those stories that probably couldn't be done today,
in the post-Crisis world. Wish I had done a better job on it. The melodrama
was mostly a musical overtone, not an organic element of the story. Ah, well...
RT: The recap of the JSA/Earth-Two situation in Adventure #462 was obviously
done because the story had been split in two, so #463's story was probably the
first one prepared for Adventure. Was Fredric Vaux intended to be the Earth-Two
LEVITZ: I had just read a biography of Fredric Law Olmstead, who designed
Central Park (among many other beautiful places) with partner Calvert Vaux.
The Faust element was certainly in there somewhere. Don't recall if #463's story
was started for All-Star or Adventure.
RT: In the offbeat story in #464, Wildcat is the only JSAer who appears
LEVITZ: A favorite. Short and fun.
RT: How did Adventure #466's "The Defeat of the Justice Society!"
come about? The two halves of the story-first in space, then before Congress-seem
a loose stitch, nicely held together by the Huntress/Power Girl narration. Did
you think at all about the fact that Wonder Woman obviously didn't retire in
1950-51 like the other six JSAers?
LEVITZ: Like you, I'm a bit of a history buff, and enjoy fitting the
retro pieces in... though I've had far fewer opportunities to do so. I imagine
I justified the Wonder Woman exception either by figuring the switch to Earth-One
occurred at that point, or that she used her military security clearance to
RT: That story's final caption seems to indicate you knew in advance
that it would be the last "JSA" story in Adventure-or indeed anywhere,
for the time being. Did you?
LEVITZ: Not while plotting it, I think... but by the time I dialogued
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