Monday, March 07, 2016

At Sixes and Sevens

As we approach our landing in the strange new (?) country of the DCU's Rebirth, the contours of its coast are acquiring finest details.  Every week brings more news of who's going to be doing what on which titles.

But on thing remains tantalizing unclear, at least to me:

Who will be in the Justice League.

This has always been a problem in the Justice League. Iconically, the JLA has seven member (or "core members" when it's larger).  The problem is: DC only has six iconic characters.

That's really a misnomer;  DC has LOTS of iconic characters.  Sure, Cave Carson and Oddman don't have a lot of ancillary merchandise.  But Plastic Man, Shazam, Batgirl, heck, Krypto; DC is tripping over iconic characters.  But they are overshadowed by the fact that DC has six, well...'super-iconic' characters.  Ugh, there's really no other way to say that, is there? You win again, Kal.

You know who they are; DC knows who they are; heck, everyone knows who they are: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Green Lantern.  

Those were the characters DC chose to include in its modern update of the Justice Society, the new "Justice League", at the start of the Silver Age and its 'rebirth' of DC's superhero lines of comics.  Truth be told, the Justice League, as I have pointed out before, isn't a mere 'update' of the Justice Society. It's exactly the opposite of the Justice Society.  As a publishing concept, the purpose of Justice Society was as a proving ground for superhero characters that didn't have yet enough popularity to carry their own titles.  This is why Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were members of the JSA in name only and appear only in passing.  This is why when the (Jay Garrick) Flash become popular enough to get his own title, he left the JSA.  Active membership in the JSA meant you weren't enough of an icon to have your own comic.

"Of course, in my case 'raised' means 'wrote a cashier's check'.  It's in my utility belt."

Membership in the JLA, however, mean the opposite.  Only those heroes who were strong enough to have survived the 1950s' "lean years" for superheroes, who still had their own titles (or had found shelter in back-up stories, as did Aquaman), or the revamped ones meant to usher in the new era of superheroes   Only Icons Need Apply.

Oh...and the Martian Manhunter, of course.  The poor Martian Manhunter, who , as previously discussed, never got to do anything but suck or blow in JLA stories, because that wasn't something the others generally did. They could, of course; Superman can do anything.  But they were polite enough not to.  "Oh, thank goodness YOU were here, J'onn; I don't know WHAT we would have done without you! <insert patented Batman Eyeroll> "

Well, it's pretty clear Martian Manhunter's not on deck or even in the bullpen for JLA this time.  His title is cancelled and there's no sign of him lurking in any of the 'new 32' titles that are part of DC's streamlined offerings.  

Rebirth Specials:

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• AQUAMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Topo!)
• BATMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Detective Jones!)
• THE FLASH #1  (with J'onn Jonzz as Harrison Wells!)
• GREEN ARROW #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Diggle!)
• GREEN LANTERNS #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as All the Stewardesses!)
• SUPERMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Joan Jonas the WGBS Weathergirl!)
(with J'onn Jonzz as Mars!)

Cyborg -- the new 52 replacement for MM  and a character DC has been trying to force feed us for decades -- fares a little better.  He at least is in there somewhere, and with his own title:

Rebirth Specials:
• SUPERGIRL REBIRTH #1 (with J'onn J'onzz as DEO Director Hank Henshaw! Nah; that would never work...)

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):

He's being relaunched AFTER "Red Hood & the Outlaws", by the way.  It's pretty clear where that places him in the hierarchy of things.  Higher than MM, but nowhere near the Super-Icons.  Unless Harley Quinn's going to be in the JLA, too. Which, frankly, wouldn't surprise me at this point, given how addicted to her DC has become.

Sigh.  I KNEW the internet would have a picture like this.

So, I'm thinking neither Cyborg nor MM will be in the 'core' of the JLA.  But then who...

oh, no.

No, no, no.



And he even has his own TV show. And was the FIRST hero after the original seven to join the Justice League in the Silver Age.

Oh, this is going to be FUN.


CobraMisfit said...


After all, why not?

MichaelT said...

Can't we do this by the roles they fill and/or power sets?
*Superman is, well, super
*Batman is, well, not super
*Flash is the fast guy
*Lantern is the utility outfielder and magic guy (c'mon, however you dress it up it's a wishing ring)
*Aquaman is the water guy, and
*Wonder Woman is, well, the woman
What's missing? MM may have every power under the sun, but really that just makes him super. And his "civilian" skill is taken by Batman. Arrow is not needed because we all know he's just Batman-lite. Cyborg is only pushed because of affirmative action quotas, and his slot can be filled by having John Stewart take the Lantern role while Hal is off getting stitches from his latest head injury. Vixen did good double duty as woman/minority, and "animal powers" are not covered by anyone else at present. But what we are really missing is somebody with growing/shrinking my vote goes for the Atom (who also happens to have a TV show).

Scipio said...

I actually think of Cyborg as 'the token TECH guy' more than anything, because tech is much more important now than it was in 1961. Oh, and he's the replacement for the teleporter.

Anonymous said...

Just so long as they write a Green Arrow I can deal with, I'll be happy. I thought Nocenti's run was the worst DC could stoop to, but have you been following his recent adventures? He's allowed himself to be turned into a werewolf so he can learn what it's like to be a minority. You think I'm exaggerating; I promise you I am not.

Can we just have the pushy, mouthy, liberal, holier-than-thou, slightly sexist Ollie Queen of the Bronze Age? He at least worked; he was, if nothing else, irritating in a good way. If we can't have that Ollie, can we have the one from "Green Arrow: Year One" nearly a decade ago?

Or hell, what about Winick's Green Arrow? Winick wasn't the flashiest writer, but his GA adventures generally worked, and that's more than I can say about the post-Flashpoint GA writers.

Scipio said...

"He's allowed himself to be turned into a werewolf so he can learn what it's like to be a minority."

That actually makes me feel sorry for Green Arrow.

And that ain't easy.

Steve Mitchell said...

Hawkman, damn it! Because he's the "I've been doing this for 3,000 years, and I take no prisoners" guy.

American Hawkman said...

I've always said Hawkman is DC's most versatile character, but clearly nobody but Geoff Johns believes me. But, yeah, he's a natural for the Wolverine role as a guy who is willing to END the threat if it needs to be done.

r duncan said...

Glad you're back, Scipio. You make comics fun even when they're not.

Anonymous said...

Watching the first episode of "Legends of Tomorrow" with Mrs. Anonymous, I was trying to explain the Hawkman / Hawkgirl reincarnation cycle. "So they're really phoenixes", she said.

Is Mrs. Anonymous on to something? If the hawks are each individually a duality of hawk and phoenix aspect, that could mean ... hell I don't know what it means. But it feels like there's potential there. It makes their reincarnation cycle less about grim deaths and more about death's inability to keep them down.

Steve Mitchell said...

Hawkman would bring much more to the League than Green Arrow ever could--or Batman, for that matter.

Bryan L said...

Hmm. Nobody's mentioned Hawkgirl/woman. Kendra is on TV, and she could check off a few boxes (woman, berserker warrior, reincarnation, animal power). Go with the animated JLU characterization (not necessarily the origin, but the no-nonsense kick-ass-first-ask-questions-later attitude).

Of course, we all know it should be Vibe. And he's on TV now, too.

SallyP said...

Well, there is Zatanna, it would be nice to have another woman, and she could do magical stuff. Or Black Canary. Hey they both wear fishnet... that has to count for something!

Mark said...

Sound logic - although Johns really seems to love Cyborg.

The interesting question is what version of Green Arrow is getting Rebirthed? The classic O'Neil/Adams version (you know, Bernie Sanders with a bow & arrow), the Mike Grell version, or the ersatz Batman from the CW tv show? Fortunately, I think the success of the last has eliminated any risk that they will try the Smallville version (which was the basis for the initial new 52 launch).

A secondary question is will Rebirth restore a sense of time to the Justice League? Johns current Justice League series struck an incredible false note when it from the first arc to 5 years later with the exact same membership (and the characters acting pretty much the exact same way after 5 years). I'm hoping we don't get a Big 7 line up but something that feels a little more lived in. More than anything, though, I hope we get a writer on Justice League that doesn't write them like the damn X-Men.

I'm still pretty skeptical - I think this is still basically Didio calling the shots and using Johns to absorb the criticism. But even in a best case scenario, maintaining quality across a line is clearly not an easy task. Look at the TV universe shows - you can see a steep decline in quality with the addition of "Legends of Tomorrow" which has some of the worst writing I've heard on a television superhero show combined with narrative/plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon.

Scipio - here's a challenge for you if you're in the mood. Warner Brothers has decreed Cyborg must be in the Big 7 because of "corporate synergy" and you are assigned to relaunch Cyborg Rebirth. How would you apply your dynastic centerpiece model to the character to counteract his Bronze Age/nouveau riche pedigree?

Scipio said...

"How would you apply your dynastic centerpiece model to the character to counteract his Bronze Age/nouveau riche pedigree?"

THIS an interesting question. The answer will probably become a post in itself.

Doc said...

Cyborg's dynasty includes the Metal Men. Those 2 issues of Justice League with the Metal Men were the most popular thing of the New52 at the time.

Anonymous said...

I vote for "Bernie Sanders with a bow and arrow".

Unknown said...

I heard Johns likes Hawkman. I'm betting on him.

Doc said...

Martian Manhunter IS iconic because he is always in a TV show or video game. He is currently on Supergirl. He gives missions in DC Universe Online. His Dynasty Ms Martian is in Young Justice, which might come back.

J'onn appeared on Superfriends before The Flash (unnamed, but just watch Episode 1 carefully, the green alien is telepathic)

John said...

This might sound like an entirely unrelated issue (and it may yet be), but I have to wonder if it's actually time for DC to at least rethink the Justice League. In a lot of ways, it's an artifact of its time, a club that its members often take way too seriously, created as a narrative framework for something (crossovers) that's a lot more routine, today, than it was in 1960. Attempts to modernize the concept always double down on things that don't really make a lot of sense (the hand-wringing over secret identities, monitor duty, leadership roles, formal membership rules, an official headquarters, committee meetings) while trying to "fix" it in nonsensical ways (paid gigs, military jargon, obsessive sparring matches, whatever Meltzer was trying to do...) that rarely last because they don't work.

I'm not saying it's time to ditch the franchise, if only because nobody would ever release that kind of trademark in advance of a movie...unless one was trying to undermine Sony, I mean. But I think the concept of a fixed-membership boys'/kids' club is something that hasn't really worked since...oh, at least cell phones.

It would be nice if the new League wasn't just an attempt to repaint the old, but instead was structured in a way we could imagine happening. I don't know if that's an umbrella corporation that handles licensing, trademarks, and court appearance schedules for its members, an informal "non-group" that gets called in based on expertise and availability per adventure, or something else, but what we've seen hasn't really (as a concept) succeeded or even made much sense since the early '80s.

That said, the seventh member is obviously Cyborg. Like Green Arrow, he has a biweekly title coming in those solicitations and he's in the movie cast. Hawkwoman would be a great choice (I happen to inexplicably prefer the Hawkworld version). Vibe (as mentioned) would be sensible in a way that would have been crazy, thirty years ago. Captain Atom would be both predictable and a sign that acquired characters aren't going to remain "ghettoized." Phantom Lady would be a nice change of pace from the inevitable reintroduction of Black Canary. The non-Martian Manhunter could work well. But the odds of anybody but Cyborg seem low, to me, and I suspect that DC might worry how well a TV-Ollie would fare in a universe with Superman and Batman.

Which reminds me of one other point I wanted to make, regarding the analysis. Scipio, you're right that DC has its six big names then everybody else. But I'd argue it's actually worse. They have Superman and Batman, then the other four (as much as they try to convince us that Wonder Woman is treated like an A-lister), then everybody else. But either way, they do really should put in some work to expand that top roster and fill in some intermediate ranks.

Anonymous said...

"It would be nice if the new League wasn't just an attempt to repaint the old, but instead was structured in a way we could imagine happening. I don't know if that's an umbrella corporation that handles licensing, trademarks, and court appearance schedules for its members, an informal "non-group" that gets called in based on expertise and availability per adventure, or something else, but what we've seen hasn't really (as a concept) succeeded or even made much sense since the early '80s."

I haven't been following Marvel much since the early 90s, but I remember that, back in the day, the Avengers maintained an entire staff of techs, mechanics, security experts, phone bank operators, and all the things that made it possible for a big operation to work. Superheroes also tended to hang out at the Avengers Mansion, but when you think about it, that wasn't really all that necessary for them to do most of what they did, especially since all the heavy hitters lived in NYC. The point is, I think it worked pretty well, and it's very much like you're describing -- including, when a threat would arise, Avengers HQ would contact the various Avengers to see who was available.

I very much like your point about licensing of the JLA, by the way. Makes me think of something I would do if I had to do a new Superman origin movie: I've never liked that the "S" is supposed to be a Kryptonian symbol, it ought to be an actual weird letter "S". And the way I'd do the origin of the "S" is, it was part of a poster made for Superman by some kids at an underfunded school; he adopted the logo and set up licensing so that all proceeds would go to schools, childrens hospitals, and the like. It's something Ma Kent would be proud of (which BTW ought to factor in to how Superman is written: would Ma Kent be proud of what Superman is doing?).

John said...

I agree, Anonymous. The Kryptonian "it means hope" explanation always seemed overly-contrived and a little pointless (if I wear the ancient Egyptian glyph for "hope" on my chest, who does that inspire, exactly?) to me, too, whereas yours makes far more sense for the character.

Also, to Mark's point, I agree that Legends of Tomorrow isn't the best offering out there, but I think it's less because the team is over-extended and more because it's...just not an interesting concept. Vandal Savage has got to be one of the least-motivated (and -interesting) villains DC has, and replacing Hastor with him has always been a terrible idea. And the actors, with a few exceptions, just aren't very good...

Slaughter said...

Wonder-Woman being an equal to Superman and Batman is laughable. Could be, but ins't there yet. She needs her Geoff Johns, but the problem seems that every writter tries to be it. Fails.

Martian Manhunter rocks, just need to get rid of the more physical powers and focus on what he already has: A immensely powerful alien shapeshifter/telepath/telekinetic. I don't think the fact he's a detective is a bad thing - in a way, he's a cheerier alien Batman/sadder Superman (perspective is a funny thing - to Martians he would be the former, to humans the later) with mad detective skills and super-powers. He can do things no other hero can because of his skill/power combinations.

Slaughter said...

I like Cyborg but he should't be a league founder. He was created to be a Titan first and foremost. He's there for diversity. Also being used as The Black Driver. I would like to see him in the League... later.

There's one black character with bonafides to be a founding member of the Justice League, and we all know who is he. THE Black Super-Hero. Time to give his dues, and put Cyborg back in the B team where he belongs.

Slaughter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Slaughter said...

Also what's with Deathstroke in the DCU lately - what's this, 90s nostalgia?
Btw I would love to see some of Arrow Deathstroke in the comics - he can be honourableish merc Deathstroke in most comics, and be Crazy Angry Vengeful Life-Wrecker Arrow Deathstroke in Green Arrow comics. Could be funny when both of these intersect.

Scipio said...

"Also being used as The Black Driver." OUCH. Quote for truth.

I assume you are elsewhere referring to Black Lightning. He was definitely 'the' DC black hero of the '70s, but as a younger generation has taken over DC, he has completely superseded by Cyborg, who is from the 1980s.