Dollar Bin Winners: America vs. The Justice Society

Convention season has arrived. As the days grow longer and the air grows warmer, the inhabitants of the comic book convention awake from their long winter nap. Former professional wrestlers wipe the sleep from their eyes and gather their glossy photos. The sword salesmen gatherthe newest scimitars from the sword orchard. The lumbering dollar bins emerge from the nearest fresh water lake to park themselves in the climate controlled heaven of a convention center. This dollar bin has a very special nerdnip control over me.

 

The dollar bins are often messy, out of order, and crowded with other nerds. They also hold some of the greatest treasures one can find at a convention. The bin is the home of the underrated 1980s book.  These books are often extremely well written, well drawn, and not collected in any sort of trade paperback. They lurk on the collective memory of fandom, but their appeal is not strong enough to warrant a collection. There also happens to be enough copies to make them relatively easy to find. As part of my community service, I would like to point out these treasures over the course of this summer. If they interest you, just keep an eye on the dollar bins at your nearest con.

 

One of my favorite finds from a dollar bin is America vs. The Justice Society, a four issue miniseries published in 1985. The series was written by Roy Thomas, and features art from Rafael Kayanan, Rich Buckler, Alfredo Alcala, Bill Collins, Mike Hernandez, Howard Bender, and Jerry Ordway. Set in the 1980s of Earth-2,  it centers on accusations from the recently deceased Earth-2 Batman that the JSA were Nazi collaborators. Batman wrote a diary detailing how the JSA came under the influence of Hitler via the Spear of Destiny. Once these accusations are brought to light, the JSA is put on trial as traitors. The trial itself acts as an overview of the history of the Justice Society. Virtually every Golden Age adventure is discussed at some point in the trial. They even mention the fact that the JSA retired when the US government demanded that they reveal their identity. Eventually the JSA exonerate themselves, and we see that Batman might be a bit too clever for his own good.

 

Roy Thomas works his usual magic. He uses the tone and focus of the Golden Age stories to fuel this larger story. During World War II, the Justice Society never really fought Nazis. They took on a few costumed criminals, bank robbers, and saboteurs but they never went gangbusters on Hitler. The publishers at the time were in a difficult position. The US was in the middle of a war that required sacrifice from the entire nation. It probably didn't seem all that wise to publish stories were Superman goes over to German, beats Hitler, and ends the war. The tone of Superman and JSA stories were not in sync with the tone that the war was taking. They always had complete victories, and the outcomes were never really in doubt. The books focused on domestic concerns, leaving the fighting to the soldiers.  Batman's diary takes these domestic concerns and puts a collaborator slant on the stories.  Roy Thomas took the real life limitations of the stories and weaved them into a grander story. He deftly works his story around continuity, using it as a starting point instead of the end. 

 

The book operates as both an exciting mystery and a great primer on the history of the Justice Society. If you are a history nerd, a JSA nerd, or both, I highly recommend picking these issues up if you see them. If you have any dollar bin gold strikes, let everyone know below.


 


Tom Katers thinks it is funny that Earth-2 Batman had a diary. Please note that neither Batman nor the diary were as large as depicted on the cover above.

Comments

  1. I’m definitely going to be on the hunt for this – what little I’ve read of Thomas’ JSA stuff from this period has been great.

    Along these same lines, I recommend The Last Days of the Justice Society – another Thomas gem.

  2. My all time favorite find in a dollar bin was an issue of Power Man with, what i feel, might be one of the greatest covers of all time. It’s Luke Cage throwing a telephone pole at the reader, amazing perspective, it jumps out at you. The caption at the bottom reads "And if he misses, his friend dies!!!"

    genius

  3. My all-time favorite $0.50/dollar bin issue is "The Amazing Spider-man" #45. It was missing a cover, but everything else was in reasonable reading shape. Lee & Romita Sr.!!!

  4. Hear, Hear, Tom.  One of my all time faves was this particular Mini.  To this day I have this fascination with the Earth-2 Batman (Specifically when he is identified as the Earth-2 Batman… because those tales are rare) and when I saw this at my appear in my Comic Shop shelf back in ’85 I had to have it.  I am a huge Roy Thomas fan and still see him as the last word on all things JSA and Golden Age.

  5. Loved this series, although I paid more than a dollar for the issues. I can also second the recommendation for Last Days of the Justice Society.

     

    One of my bestdollar bin finds was a beat up copy of BATMAN #244. Batman and Ra’s Al Gul drawn by Neal Adams? How can you beat that?

  6. My recent bin gold was 1 – 11 of Batman’s Knightfall for $0.33 an issue!   

  7. Got a graded 9.2 Spidey 300 for $10 as part of a bulk deal this afternoon.

  8. I have been looking for the rest of this series for ages! I got #1 from my LCS for about $2 (It was in surprisingly good condition despite having been lost in the store’s backroom for 4 years!) I’ve been searching back issue bins high and low (Well, by "high" I mean NYCC and by "low" I mean Big Apple Con.) ever since. It’s actually a fairly rare find from what I’m told.

    My best dollar bind find was the complete Great Darkness Saga (including that little "Prologue" from two issues before) and all of Iron Man 201-250 (Armor Wars being the big deal).

    As well, I could never figure out why Green Lantern/Flash Faster Friends #1 was so much money and yet #2 was only $5 (it may be vice versa). When I asked at a con – having seen that they were hawking it for $20 – I was told "Because it’s the issue from LOST! Everyone’s been looking for one." I told him I was looking for it, but that a token appearance on a TV show didn’t justify it being $20 as the appearance didn’t add any value. (At the time I was not a fan of the show.) He then confided that despite the "As appeared in LOST" point of sale was not working and sold the issue to me for $7. Point being, always try and haggle for a better price. Don’t be gullible and be taken in by the guy selling Iron Fist #1-14 at the "lowest price I can do is $300."

  9. I got some old Neal Adams’ Wierd War Tales issues as part of a grab bag bundle. They were completely beat to crap, but just some really fun stuff for a quarter. 

  10. I have seen them in dollar bins within the last couple years. I replaced my really ratty copies about a year ago…and they were only 50 cents a piece!

  11. Who doesn’t love the lure of the $ bins?  I usually hunt for the old Eclipse/P.C./Epic comics, but the overall appeal of random goodness will always draw me in.

  12. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Great article, Tom. I love the dollar and quarter bins as well. Mostly, I hunt down stuff that I know isn’t going to be great, but I’m trying it anyway. Stuff like JUSTICE LEAGUE comics from between Giffen/DeMatteis and Morrison’s runs, CAPTAIN ATOM comics from the ’80s and ’90s (some of which are quite good), and the original CHECKMATE run.

    Keep this series up! I’m always looking for more suggestions. 

  13. Im old. I bought this book off the rack at cover price back in 1985.  It has remained one of my my fav. mini series of all time.  I wonder which longbox I have to dig through to find it?

  14. I’m a sucker for ’80s Daredevil. Any time there’s a quarter sale I end up with a handful of them.

  15. I found "the daring new adventures of supergirl" #10 in a flea market bin and it’s freaking awesome! Love the cover and everything. I want the whole series now!

  16. Batman 432 – a little after Robin died and full of Jim Stalin/Jim Aparo goodness. No supervillain, just a kidnapping.  There is an awesome,one page, panel by panel look at Batman’s effect on the guilty party when they open their door to see him. That whole era can be found in dollar bins and is awesome.

  17. I have a veeeeery big fan of this series but have to find it again because I ruind the series when I was a kid.