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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)

From Alter 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 Staton.

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 Estrada.
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 distinction.

RT: You're listed for "patter" on #62-meaning, you wrote the dialogue?
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 to me.

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 time?
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 ink himself.

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 Felix Faust?
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 in costume.
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 get through.

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 it, certainly.

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