I’ve been reading articles at Newsarama.com about how the Avengers has been turned into a franchise. It hit me this morning. As more of a DC fan than Marvel, why has DC not turned the Justice League into a franchise?
Sure, there was JLA Classified, but that folded a few years back without even a whimper. The last time the Justice League can truly be said to be a franchise was back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. We had 3 monthly and 1 quarterly Justice League titles. In this day when Green Lantern supports two books, Flash has two books coming, and the Justice Society has two books, it is a shame that the Justice League only has one.
What would it take to make the Justice League a successful franchise? Actually, it already has what it needs, if the folks at DC take advantage of it. Any franchise needs a flagship and secondary titles that are clearly linked to it. Stories can be relatively independent and only rarely need to dovetail together. In the International era, the main title ran for two years, then they split some of the cast off into a second book and expanded the cast to fill both books. When they hit the third book, the main cast was split too thin and the concept fell apart. That should be avoided.
Title: Justice League of America
A) This needs to be the essence of what people who have never read the book expect the Justice League to be. Simply put, the World’s Greatest Super Heroes. Not in terms of power, but in terms of saleability. DC’s best and brightest stars. The heroes everyone knows.
B) Whomever DC wants to promote their solo book at the highest cross-sell visibility. The inclusion of the cast above means an immediate audience of many of the fans of those heroes. Putting a rising star in this book should give a boost to sales of their own title. Think of the Atom in the Silver Age or Firestorm in the Satellite era. In today’s DCU, the current Blue Beetle fits this scenario.
C) Whomever the current writer wants to ADD to the above. Notice, I did not say SUBTRACT. The essence needs to be there. Everything else is gravy. Conway added Firestorm. Morrison added Plastic Man and Huntress. Kelly added Mantou Raven and Major Disaster. Meltzer added Black Lightning and Red Arrow. Each of these offered new potential in story telling.
So, with the Flagship book in place, how does DC get a JL franchise up and running as fast as possible?
1. Title: Justice League: Outsiders.
Rebrand the current Outsiders book as part of the JL franchise. Simply change its name.
A) Current cast members have been in the JL before. Metamorpho was offered membership in the Silver Age JLA and served on the JLI:Europe team. Black Lightning was offered membership during the Satellite era and served in the current JLA until recently. Geo-Force worked along side the current JLA. Also, Black Lightning and Metamorpho were the first heroes Batman turned to towards the end of the Satellite JLA when Batman needed help in a case the JLA would not take on. This case led to the formation of the original Outsiders team.
B) Prior runs of the Outsiders often felt like they were Batman’s own ‘JLA’. In essence, when the JLA said no, Batman created his own ‘JLA’. During Kelly’s JL Elite, Batman had no less than 2 spies on the team to be his eyes and ears, Green Arrow and Batgirl. In the early issues current Outsiders run, Batman had Geo-Force’s ‘membership’ "shifted" from the JLA to the Outsiders. During the Obsidian Age story of the Kelly run, Batman activated "Plan B", which formed a replacement JLA while the main team was gone based on criteria Batman felt the replacement team would need. Batman also on his own involved Plastic Man in League business in the Morrison run which led to Plas joining the team.
So there is a precedent of a Justice League led by and membership hand selected by Batman. And that leads to the base formula for the Justice League affiliate books. 1 Batman led/inspired team and 1 Superman led/inspired team. If those take off, we add 1 Green Lantern led/inspired team. We do NOT take them out of the main book – Batman served in both the JLA and the Outsiders current runs – instead we feature them in both books.
Increased sales of course, but in addition to that, new places for secondary heroes to shine. Dan Didio has said that there are 5 cornerstones of the DCU. Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Green Lantern. Flash. I think it is time they made the Justice League the 6th cornerstone.