The JLA. The Worlds Greatest Super Heroes. There are proponents for the return to each era of the team for current stories. The "Big 7". The Satellite Era. JL International (Giffen/DeMattis). Morrison era. Post Obsidian Age, Meltzer/McDuffie. All of these have their good and bad stories. But one name bugs me every time I hear it. "The Big 7".
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and … Aquaman, Martian Manhunter.
Many feel this should be the be all and end all of the team. While I disagree, that is not the point of this blog. It is the label of "Big 7" applied to this group. Why? To me, DC has a "Big 5". Frankly, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter just do not deserve being in a group with the label "BIG"that implies the same level as the other 5.
1. Was not a member of the JLA during their MOST popular bygone era, the Satellite years. MM left the team (#71) before they moved to the Satellite (#78) and did not return until the story where the Satellite was destroyed and abandoned (#228). That is over a dozen years. MM appeared in one panel in issue #100, a flash back story in #144, and was featured in 177, 178 and 200. Anyone with that few appearances over than length of time cannot be considered critical to the team.
2. Is virtually unknown compared to heroes who were on the Super Friends. The decision to not showcase MM in a single episode means that way more people who only watched cartoons in that era know of Rima the Jungle Girl than MM. I certainly remember the Green Arrow episode.
3. Cannot support his own title. After a number of mini series, DC attempted a MM ongoing. It lasted 36 issues and was canceled.
Martian Manhunter has gained prominence in the public eye by being in the JL cartoon, but we should point out that he was rarely used in the 3 seasons of JLU.
I love Aquaman.
1. JLA prominence downgraded over the years. At a certain point, JLA writers stopped writing stories which involved water scenes. Early issues often included going to the "harbor". And they stopped using him. There was a run of over a year and a half where he did not appear at all.
2. Super Friends disappearance. In the later seasons, Aquaman went from primary member to background character. Firestorm took over as the #4 SF character.
3. Aquaman also has an issue maintaining a long running solo comic. Some times it runs for 13 issues, sometimes 75, sometimes – did the latest run get to issue 50?
4. DC felt he needed to be replaced. Yes, DC attempted to replace the King of the Seas Aquaman with a younger version. This decision appears to be currently being reversed.
5. Aquaman was left out of the main team in the Justice League cartoon. While he was prominently featured in a number of adventures, clearly the creators felt he was not a critical member of the team.
Gardner Fox is quoted as saying he intended to include Green Arrow from the beginning but forgot about him when writing the first adventure, so including him in this list is necessary.
1. Green Arrow was in one episode of the Super Friends, barely remembered by the general public. When I showed a coworker a HeroClix of Green Arrow, he asked why there were two characters whose names started with "Green".
2. GA never had a monthly comic until the 80s. Mike Grell revised this character as a viable solo act. Even so, his title goes through continuous changes, cancellations, and restarts.
3. DC decided to kill off Green Arrow and replace him with a younger version. It worked for Flash, it kind of worked for Green Lantern, why not Green Arrow? I believe it was writer Kevin Smith who wanted to write a Green Arrow story featuring Oliver Queen that got Ollie back and put Conner Hawke on the way out.
Brad Meltzer decided not to include any of these in his run of JLA, in an interview he stated MM was out because MM was not a member during his childhood that led to him leaving out the character.
Different heroes at DC command a different amount of recognition. "Big" should mean head and shoulder above the rest. I propose that the original 7 membership of the JLA be referred to as the "Original 7" or the "Classic 7". Because no matter how much we wish it, not all heroes are in the same League.
Update – Wow. Thank you all for the insightful responses. I think I need to add a bit to clarify my main point. I am NOT saying that Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Green Arrow – or any other hero for that matter – should NOT be part of the JLA. What I am trying to say is that the NAME used to describe the original team, "Big 7" is inaccurate because
1) there are really only 5 BIG heroes in the DCU: As Dan Didio said, there are 5 cornerstones in the DCU – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern.
2) Green Arrow should be included in any classic listing of the membership because he was intended to be included from the beginning per reports of Gardner Fox, the writer.
and 3) – although its not the point of this blog – limiting the team to just the founders to me is incredibly short sighted. It would mean never reading a JL story with the likes of Firestorm, Booster Gold, the Ray, Zauriel, Plastic Man, or Black Lightning. And as I told Dan Didio in 2005, I’ve been waiting for Black Lightning to join the team since JLA 173.