Monday, February 8, 2010

Call me a JLA elitist...

I can stay silent no longer.

As a lifelong Justice League fan, I’ve always enjoyed liking and disliking the various league incarnations. Sometimes it’s even been enjoyable when three or four of my favourite characters leave at the same time and are replaced by some new blood.

During the last few years, a trend has developed where a grouping of former league members team up for a random adventure and either think of themselves as or refer to themselves as “Justice League.” I’m sorry, but they are NOT Justice League. They are FORMER Justice League.

I thought that was bad enough, but DC is making an even bigger mistake with their new JLA roster (which  I thought was a practical joke up to a few months ago):

1] Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
See objections below
2] Green Arrow
See objections below
3] Dick Grayson (as Batman)
Always looks like a great idea on paper (he’s led a team before, better social skills than Batman, moderately popular), but somehow Grayson never delivers...
4] Donna Troy
I’ve had a bit of a tolerate-hate relationship with Donna Troy...only briefly liked one of her incarnations and that was because her personality had been changed 100% during a transformation. If you say you like the Titans, some people assume you’re a Donna Troy fan for some reason and when you reveal that you’re not those people will have these bewildered facial expressions. To me, she’s really like someone who is friends with one of your friends and you can never figure why your friend likes her (or people in general for that matter).
5] Starfire
If you have Dick, Starfire won’t be far behind (that didn’t sound good when I read it)...Are Dick and Starfire the prototypes for Edward and Bella? Does Stephanie Meyers read comic books?
6] Cyborg
At least he’s not a sidekick
7] Mon-el
The new Superman or Superman analogue, plucked from the Legion where this character actually worked...
8] Guardian
He was more interesting as a supporting character to Superboy of the 90s
9] Congorilla
10] Atom (Ray Palmer)
This guy needs a hug more than he needs JLA membership
11] Doctor Light
EDIT: I'd forgotten to add the good doctor...Maybe, she and Atom were added last to try to please fans of different incarnations of the league and to make the league smarter. Also, she's Guardian's girlfriend (??) and they're both in the current Superman books (That's a Morrisson move, isn't it? Adding charcters to the JLA that you write in other titles...) 

Reasons for my dislike of this roster:

1] I absolutely hate the idea of the JLA as “graduate school for Titans.” Most of The Titans were former sidekicks of Original Leaguers, right? All of them have reached the level of their mentors, right? Oh wait, no, most of them haven’t. Doesn’t this make the JLA easier to defeat (collectively or individually)? And experience doesn’t seem to be the big factor here, because the Justice League Titans have plenty of experience. They’re just not as good as their mentors and in some cases heroes with less experience are actually better than them. Fine, graduate, but do it somewhere else! Make your own way – don’t trade on your mentor’s reputation and good standing...

2] Having heroes with the same powers or skill sets as former members makes the team pretty easy to plan against. You need one or two dark horses in your team to make villains go, “Don’t really know anything about this guy...At least, I can use one of the 212 strategies that work against Nightwing, but this other guy he’s an unknown quantity...He’s not even a legacy hero, so I can’t even use Google him to read up on his...”

3] Aren’t these Titans sick of each other yet? They’ve spent more time together than some of the original leaguer BFFs. There’s a reason the Big Seven of the JLA aren’t in every incarnation of the league.

4] Whenever the league creates a new roster or holds try-outs (isn’t there a better, more prestigious term to use?), I prefer the line-up with well-known or incumbent league faces plus three or four heroes who are totally new to the league AND to each other. So, ONE non-sidekick Titan would have been acceptable to me, but not half of the former tenants of Titan’s tower!

5] We don’t need a Batman analogue (Dick), a Wonder Woman analogue (Donna), or a Superman analogue (Mon-el). If Supes, Bats, and WW aren't there, pick other heroes who don't have their powers.

I came across this article. I totally disagree with the article itself (especially the author's proxy definition of "iconic heroes") and some people rightfully objected to the line-up. There’s even a commenter called 3GP...I think we share a mind or something. Another guy called Captain Silver Age also made a sensible suggestion. General themes in these comments: Hal is Boring; Hal is tainted by his past actions and has been forgiven too easily; People miss Steel (John Henry Irons, not the Detroit league guy); Get Red Arrow or Connor Hawke instead of Ollie; People miss Firestorm and say he should replace Starfire because his name has the word “fire” in it; People think Atom is going to be the book’s only saving grace; and WHAT, No Flash?! They make a lot of fair to good points, IMO.

My current (subject to small changes) dream JLA line-up (irrespective of death or membership to another team) would be made up of 9 or 10 members:

1] Superman
2] Batman
3] Wonder Woman
4] Martian Manhunter
5] Flash
6] Green Lantern [Kyle or John]
7] Metamorpho
8] Hawkgirl
9] Ragman [He’s the only NEW member in my line-up AND my current mystical obsession]
10] Mr. Miracle (Scott Free) [Vote Bromance with Ragman!]

I think the JLA should more often than not have most of those first 6 heroes (at least 4), the rest is up to the individual fan...The only good thing about the Justice League Titans team is that it’s 10 members strong instead of 12 or 14. I can think of 6 or 7 other heroes who would be a better fit that Mon-el and the Titans...

Hey, if the league creative team and editorial staff want to steal the members associated with other teams, why don’t they go after Dr. Fate (JSA) or Geo-Force (Outsiders)? You know, they would at least be in the same league (excuse the pun)?

I think the major problem is how DC editorial and as result the characters and some fans view the Justice League and the Titans as teams – the former being a step up from the latter. You would never see one of the X-men joining the Avengers thinking that way. No, such a switch would be viewed as a lateral move. Even members of other DC teams (Doom Patrol, The Outsiders) would think of a move to the league as a step into a different direction (for example, into the spotlight) rather a HUGE improvement of status. Maybe, it was the whole sidekick team thing back in the day?

Rant over for now...


  1. Yeah, packing the Titans doesn't really do it for me either. Of course, I'm a Giffen/De Matteis fan, so I'm looking forward to the rejuvenated JLI.

    You need Martian Manhunter on the Justice League. You just do. Also a Flash. Wally needs something to do, so I'd put Wally in, which satisfies the former Titan requirement. I like Wonder Woman,and I can't stand Donna, so have her. You need a Green Lantern of course, so have John. Kyle and Guy are off being partners on Oa, and Hal is too busy being fabulous. If you need an archer bring in Roy...another former Titan.

    And for the love of God, keep Geo-Force OUT.

  2. A preface:

    At first I didn't know where you were coming from when I read your post, then I looked up JLA 41 and lo and behold, there was the roster you were talking about. So then I thought, "How'd I miss that issue? Did HeavyInk forget to send it with my order?" Nope. Went on and checked HeavyInk, and I actually rated the issue.

    That means I *read* it. But I have no memory of the fact. Maybe it's because my brain was underwhelmd. Or maybe it's my subconcious protecting me by automatically repressing traumatic events...but I do NOT remember this book at all. It sucked that bad.

    *end prelude*

    Okay, my thoughts. You're right. This is NOT the Justice League by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close! I like objections #1 and #2, and #5 the most. I could buy #3.

    Here's my objections:

    --They have to take the "World's Greatest Superheroes!" off the front of the book. (The Mrama article said the same thing but beat me to it.) Seriously. Who are these people?! I know I'm a relative Comics Newbie, and while I know who 85% of these characters are, are you seriously choosing these guys are THE representatives of the best heroes of the DC Universe? I mean, shouldn't the JLA be, oh I don't know...a little inspiring?

    --My rationale: the League should be built of equal parts DCU legacy, character history/interaction, and skill sets. Meaning:

    1. A good portion of the members should be characters with SOME sort of legacy ties, for the sake of maintaining League identity and continuity. The Yankees aren't the Yankees without the pinstripes. There should be a Flash, a GL, Superman, and Batman, even if he only wants to be a part-timer.

    2. Conflict and story (and especially humor) rely just as much on external events as on the interactions between characters. Characters need a shared history, they need distinct personalities. There needs to be friendships and the occasional conflict. Do the Robinson JLA have that?

    3. Skill set. The League needs to be well-balanced in terms of powers and intelligence. I guess you could argue the current team of balanced.

    Not only that, but I feel NO emotional attachment to any other these characters outside of Hal, Ollie, and Ray. I mean, Donna Troy??

    I can take Ollie and Hal, mostly because they have so much history together.

    My fantasy JLA, based on my current tastes:

    1. Superman (now that's what is meant by ICONIC.)
    2. Batman (Bruce Wayne)
    3. Flash (either Wally or Barry)
    4. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, to act as a foil for Bruce Wayne), or maybe Kyle. Or Guy. Heck, have a rotating GL chair where they take turns! :)
    5. Martian Manhunter
    6. Wonder Woman
    7. Phantom Stranger, in guest appearances (my personal mystical obsession), possibly swap him out with Dr. Fate as too much PS kills the mystery (need a mystic on the team)
    8. The Atom (gotta have a scientist)
    9. Blue Beetle
    10. Booster Gold (gotta have comic relief!)
    11. Black Canary, maybe. (feel as though I should add another woman to even things out.)

    Ragman and Miracle would be pretty interesting together. I'll vote for a bromance between any characters. It seems as if true friendship is lacking these days in comics.

  3. *That's Nrama, not Mrama. Someone should stop moving my keys around....

  4. >>I absolutely hate the idea of the JLA as “graduate school for Titans.”<<

    Hear, hear! That's exactly what I thought when I saw the new roster.

  5. Sally: I also found it extremely odd that they dropped Wally and Roy (the two Titans who actually belong in the League). Wally has shown for a decade that he belongs and Roy’s short stint with the league showed that he could hang with the best of them. Is it just me, or has the fact that Wally and Roy spent the most time away from their mentors actually helped develop their heroic identities (step out from the legends’ shadows) more than their Titan team mates?

    Part of my beef is more of a ‘why did they choose these other Titans instead of teaming Wally and Roy in league?’ instead of ‘I prefer Wally over Barry’ and ‘Kyle over Hal’ or ‘I’d choose Roy over Ollie’ (although all of three of these preferences are true). I don’t have a problem with Barry, Ollie, and Hal, but the Titans and Mon-el in this book?

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. You can’t steal Geo-Force from the Outsiders, because he is so entangled in that team’s mythos. It’s the same with Cosmic Boy and the Legion or Alan Scott and the JSA. There are always 3 or 4 characters that are the heart of a specific team and to transplant them into another team is just wrong...Transplanting all 4 at once is a recipe for disaster...

    Liss: The rotating GL chair is a great idea - it could be like a permanent seat on the UN security council.

    You’re right, the league lacks a mystical hero. Phantom Stranger, Ragman, or Dr Fate would make great additions (although I have plans for one of them in an upcoming post).

    I made an omission to the team roster of JLTitans, which I’ve sincer edited. The fact that I didn’t include the character is just a symptom of how jarring most of this line-up is to my fan mind.

    Sea: I've got a bad feeling about this...I would've made these Titans all go their separate ways. Perhaps, one would join another team, another would found his/her own team, and the rest could focus on going solo for a while...

  6. I sort of hope this gets *resolved* and maybe *dissolved* in one of two ways:

    Option A:
    Hal Jordan wakes Barry Allen, “Barry, wake up!”
    Barry opens his eyes to find Hal holding him down via ring-constructed hands - smoke emanating from his bed.
    The sheets are blackened near his ankles and elbows.
    “Hal...what’re you doing in my room? Were you watching me sleep again? I’ve told you before, that’s just creepy –”
    “Um...that’s not important right now. You were running in your sleep. You must’ve been having a nightmare?”
    Barry’s eyes widen. “Oh my...It was horrible. I dreamt I was on this team with some titans and they were calling themselves the Justice League and I couldn’t get away fast enough.”
    Just then, Nightwing, Starfire, and Donna burst through the door.
    “An alarm went off in the control room,” Nightwing says, polishing his JLA badge. “What happened, team?”
    Barry screams, “Aarrrgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Barry wakes up again. The same scenario plays out, but no Nightwing and the gang.
    “Barry, it was just a dream,” Hal says, stroking Barry’s hair.
    “Good...Okay, so Hal, what ARE you going in my room?”

    Option B:
    We see a lot of heroes (former league members and known associates of the league) in their homes either turning their TVs or tossing a newspaper aside in anger.
    Next, we see the largest collection of hero-gear-up-and-get-dressed comic panels (say 25 or so) in comic history.
    Then, we see nearly 100 heroes surround the JLA and a sole figure steps out from the ranks of the 100: Aquaman. “I’ve disbanded the league before and I can do it again. So, JLA, you’re officially disbanded. Hollah!”
    Nightwing steps up and says, “You don’t have the authority to do that!”
    “You’re right, he doesn’t, but all of us do,” Alan Scott of the JSA says. “When the JLA looks bad, the image of JSA also suffers. In fact, this b-list grouping sullies the memory of every hero that has served on both teams. The JLA is a cherished institution and therefore we all have a stake in its health.”
    “I couldn’t agree more,” The Atom says. “This team isn’t the League, not the one every hero aspires to be part of, anyway. I thought I could improve it by sticking around, but...” Ray shrinks down to microscopic size before we can hear the rest.
    “And you Hal?” Superman asks. “Why did you stay?”
    Hal Jordan quickly creates a pogo stick, hops on, and bounces off into sunset, saying, “Space parasite! Space parasite! Space parasite!”

  7. Bwahaha! I like Option A the best. Sort of like the ending to Newhart....if Bob had the ability to run fast enough in his sleep to set his sheets on fire.

    I guess this is why Wally has his sheets made out of the Speed Force.

  8. The thought of Barry accidentally setting his sheets on fire delights me. And apparently Hal as well.