The British publisher DK has a new book out—DC Comics Justice League The Ultimate Guide—timed to coincide with this week's release of the eagerly-anticipated Justice League movie. I wrote the introduction and you can read the (very slightly) edited version below:
I can’t say for sure who first exposed me to comic books, but I know I was young—maybe five or six—and that I was instantly addicted. In the early 1960s DC was king of the spinner racks and just about every male under the age of thirteen worshipped the company’s incontestable superstars, Superman and Batman. But the two titles I loved above all others were Green Lantern (will + imagination = manifestation. A perfect recipe for living one’s life at any age) and DC’s crown jewel, Justice League of America. All your favorite heroes together in one book? How could anyone resist? I certainly couldn’t.
Looking back, those early stories by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky can seem almost primitive, lacking in many elements we’ve come to identify with modern comics (strong characterization first and foremost: If you just read the dialogue, you couldn’t tell Green Arrow from Wonder Woman). But what they may have lacked in sophistication, they made up for in charm, clever plotting and, most important, unbridled imagination. Those early JLA stories opened my young mind to the limitless possibilities of a universe filled with gods and aliens, sorcerers and spaceships, other dimensions and parallel worlds. Just as important, the stories were kid-friendly—something that seems almost shocking given today’s hard-edged superhero universes—written with an innocence and sense of wonder that any child (or open-hearted adult) could easily understand and relate to.
As I grew older, the League grew with me. In the 1970s, a new generation of writers and artists brought a sharper edge, and a more mature palette, to the stories, while always staying true to the book’s Fox-Sekowsky roots. I was fortunate enough to enter the world of the Justice League in late 1986 when editor Andy Helfer asked me to wrap up the adventures of the so-called Detroit League. That was supposed to be a one-off gig, but I soon found myself neck-deep in League adventures, working with Andy, co-writer Keith Giffen and an army of artists, led by Kevin Maguire, on a five year journey through a variety of Justice League International monthlies and mini-series. It was one of the happiest times of my creative life.
In the years since, I’ve been lucky enough to chronicle multiple incarnations of the League, from the resurrected clones of Justice League 3000 to the monsters and magicians of Justice League Dark and the alternate reality of Justice League: Gods and Monsters. I’ve also had the pleasure of writing the JL’s animated exploits in multiple episodes of Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold—and I can’t help wondering what my League-loving younger self would say if I could travel back in time and tell him that, one day, he’d be crafting the adventures of his favorite heroes. I suspect he’d be amazed, delighted and profoundly grateful—which is exactly how I feel as I sit here writing this.
©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis