Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Ideal Justice League Lineup

Comic book nerds like me often have their favourite team line-ups, often based on the team's composition during the golden age, i.e., the golden age of the comic-loving kid, between ages 6 to 12 or so. For me, my team was the Justice League of America and my line-up was the 1970s league, or as it's often called the "Satellite League" because they operated out of the Justice League satellite orbiting Earth. At this time the League included most of the icons: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and secondary favourites including the Atom, Black Canary, the Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, and, later, Firestorm and Zatanna. 

I grew out of comics in my very early teens but then returned to them in my late teens, thanks mostly to Stephen Fitzpatrick and his steadfast refusal to shun certain pursuits just because some people regard them as childish. I started reading comics again in late high school and continued reading them throughout university up until...well, now, basically. So I've seen quite a few different Justice Leagues, my second-favourite almost certainly being the hilarious yet dramatic Giffen/DeMatteis League of the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's weird to think of this team as updated and modern considering their adventures are now decades in the past, but this was the first JLA since the Crisis on Infinite Earths that had upset the DC universe's status quo. This new League had a couple of old mainstays like Batman and Black Canary, but also brought aboard New Gods like Mr. Miracle and Big Barda, new-ish character Booster Gold, Earth-4 transplants the Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, Earth-2 transplant Dr. Fate, a new and churlish Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, former Global Guardians Fire and Ice, and an evolving assortment of new and rebooted characters. 

As enjoyable as those stories and teams were, though, I always felt that they could be improved upon with the addition of certain characters and the subtraction of others. Like any fan, I imagined how awesome it would be to have a Justice League composed only of my favourite characters without the distractions of the ones I found annoying. (Mature readers understand the importance of not being pandered to, but this thought experiment is about wish fulfilment.) Think of it as fantasy football or fantasy baseball, but for geeks. 

So, without further ado, the JLE, or Justice League of Earl: 

Of course Superman is going to be on my team. He's the prototypical superhero, the embodiment of truth and justice. His boy scout attitude is both inspirational and provides more pragmatic team members with a source of frustration and amusement. Plus his powers are fun to explore - always versatile and interesting, if written properly. 

Wonder Woman
The prototypical superheroine is a great match for Superman, with a fascinating mythological backstory and a compelling dichotomy between loving compassion and ruthless warrior instincts. 

Green Lantern
As in the superb Justice League animated series, I'd go with John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan or one of the other Earth Lanterns. But I'd make sure to return him to his roots as an architect with a love of Streisand, rather than the stereotypical US Marine he's characterized as these days. 

The Atom
Every team needs a brilliant scientist, and Ray Palmer not only fills that role, he's a great catalyst for adventures at the subatomic level, for that, of course, is the Atom's super-power. He's also Jewish, which adds a touch of diversity. 

Green Arrow
Angry 1970s diehard liberal Green Arrow was the social conscience of the League, and he could be again. 

Black Canary
She has guts, brains, she's tough, sexy, determined, incredibly skilled and passionate, and her bickering with the Green Arrow is often a lot of fun. 

The Elongated Man
I like Ralph because he's often underestimated. His stretching power is a little goofy, but people forget that he's a fine detective. He also has a public, rather than a secret, identity, and he's married, which has, in the past, led to some fun domestic drama. 

Every team needs a mystic, and Zatanna has an interesting backstory, a funky gimmick (the backwards spells), and a tragic past. She's the gateway to stories of myth and magic. 

As a composite of two people - a young jock and a middle-aged scientist - Firestorm combines atomic angst with the pressures of growing up and a very interesting surrogate father/son dynamic. Plus his powerset is very cool and unusual. 

Red Tornado
Red Tornado's 1970s look is one of the great character designs of the era, and like Firestorm, he has a versatile and interesting powerset. He's also an android built by a League enemy, which offers fertile storytelling possibilities. 

Black Lightning
Schoolteacher Jefferson Pierce is one of my favourite characters, an angry black man straight out of the blaxploitation era. Another hero with a great costume design and cool powers, Black Lightning comes with a tragic past to rival Batman's. 

Blue Beetle
Ted Kord was a great source of humour in the 80s League; he's also a rich guy with a lot of high-tech toys. He's sort of like Batman, but less troubled. 

Doctor Light
The first Doctor Light was a villain, but Kimiyo Hoshi took the name (and a similar costume) during the Crisis, and joined the 80s League a few years later. She's a single mother and a medical doctor, as well as a healthy dose of offputting arrogance. 

Captain Atom
Great powers, fantastic "costume" (really a shell of alien metal), excellent supporting characters and a military mindset, which works nicely in opposition to liberal characters like Green Arrow and Superman. 

Tomorrow Woman
Another android created by the same villain who built Red Tornado, Tomorrow Woman appeared in only one issue of JLA in the 90s - but it was such a great story that I'd find a way to bring her back. Fun, upbeat, heroic and self-sacrificing, she'd make a great counterpoint to the more dour Red Tornado. 

Bronze Tiger
A fearsome martial artist and reformed member of the evil League of Assassins. 

The Question
Faceless conspiracy theorist and a great foil for some of the more naive characters. Fantastic character design and great for the urban milieu. 

Jonah Hex
Yes, he's from the Wild West, but he's no stranger to time travel, and he'd be hilariously out of place in the Justice League. 

So that's my list. I think I could get a pretty solid two or three year run out of these guys. 


Totty said...

"I think I could get a pretty solid two or three year run out of these guys"

Then quit flappin' yer yap and get writin', boy

Sean Woods said...

No Martian Manhunter or Aquaman?

Sean Woods said...

No Flash, either. Interesting. I'll submit my list later.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

When you say 2-3 year run, I assume you mean comics, and not movies or television; that's a pretty big roster otherwise. I further assume this list doesn't reflect your roll call for a 'real' Justice League in your role as U.N. Secretary General or Max Lord of Earth-E. Either way, though:

5 non-powered individuals, but no Batman?


I...I don't know how I feel about that...but I think I'm concerned. Can you clarify this decision for us please?

Earl J. Woods said...

Yes, I'm talking comics, not live action. As you surmise, this is my ideal JLA for storytelling purposes, not the JLA I'd choose if I were the Secretary General, although that would make an interesting exercise on its own...hmmmm, you may have just inspired another post.

As for the lack of Batman (and to a lesser extent, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Flash), it's really just a matter of overexposure. Batman is everywhere, and I think the JLA could use a break from him. Plus, his JLA schtick has gotten a little old - his attitude that he has to be on the team to ensure the (in his view) less-seasoned, dangerous heroes don't screw up the planet. Batman, cool as he is, can be a little overbearing in a team setting.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

Yeah, overexposure is one villain Batman can't beat...JUST LIKE SUPERMAN.

I view the overbearing as a feature but your mileage (and that of Guy Gardner) may vary. Also, I sure hope Wonder Woman can rein in Superman if he ever starts to whale on your team there...(shakes head condescendingly).

Seriously though, inspiring one of your posts is quite complimentary to me, since you have spurred so many of mine; cheers!