Membership Has Its Privileges
April 6, 2009

One other thing DC seems to be missing about team books these days is the lineup.  Some lineups are very fluid and change a lot.  Others do not.  When you pick up an issue the Fantastic Four is supposed to be 4 specific characters.  While many teams are more fluid than this, fans expect certain heroes to be on certain teams.

Titans.

DC seems to understand this group fairly well at this point.  Take the fab 5 from the 60′s, add in the Wolfman/Perez group and Supergirl and you are done.  In the last two verisons, they have come close.  For some strange reason, the first time they skipped Changling/Beast Boy and this time they left out Tempest.

 

Titans Roll Call

Nightwing
Flash (Wally West)
Tempest
Donna Troy
Red Arrow
Changling
Cyborg
Raven
Starfire
Jericho
Supergirl

 

 

Justice League.

Here, DC seems to not know what they are doing.  3 times they have gotten the basics right, but just as many times they have gotten them wrong.

The founding members of the team originally were: Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, plus Superman and Batman.  With each new Crisis, this seems to change.  Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were out at one point, Black Canary was added in.  Now I think all 8 are considered founders.  Whatever.  To many, the original 7 are the JLA, no one else need apply.  They call them the "Big 7".  I prefer to think of them as the "Classic 7."  Martian Manhunter does not pass my test of "big" because he disappeared for a dozen years.  No one outside of comic fans knew he existed until the recent Justice League cartoon.  And attempts at a solo comic book never make it past 3 years.

The team  expanded over the years.  Early additions were Green Arrow,the Atom,  Hawkman.  Later Black Canary, Phantom Stranger, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, and Firestorm would join the team while Metamorpho and Black Lightning turned down membership.

It feels like 1982 again.  In 1982, the League disbanded.  A new League was formed which included Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, and 4 new characters, Vixen, Vibe, Steel (the grandson of Commander Steel and cousin of Citizen Steel), and Gypsy.  This book was poorly received and I was personally blamed during a visit to DC Comics for "making it last longer than it should because I was a ‘completist’".  If I had stopped reading it when I stopped liking it, sales would have dropped faster, and it would have ended sooner.

1987.  Crisis on Inifinite Earths is over. Legends is over.  The Justice League is born once again, this time with a cast from across the previous separate worlds.  Interestingly enough, in the forward of the collected edition "Justice League:A New Beginning", they talk about how the writer Keith Giffen asked for the book, got it and then was told he could not use Superman, Wonder Woman, or Flash.  Maybe today feels more like then.  Except they were allowed to use Batman.  The new League looked like this: Batman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Dr. Fate, Capt Marvel (Shazam), Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), and Mr. Miracle (Scott Free).  Dr. Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) and the Creeper stopped by, Booster Gold joined, Fate and Marvel left to be replaced by Capt Atom and Rocket Red.  Fire and Ice joined while Barda guest starred.  The book sold well enough that a second book (Justice League Europe) was added.  Flash (Wally West), Power Girl, Animal Man, Elongated Man, and Metamorpho were added to fill the second team.  Eventually, Superman, Hal Jordan, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the Ray, and others would join this era of the League.  A third book was added (Justice League Task Force), but with the major heroes spread too thin, or not in any of the books at all, the franchise folded.

 

1996. Grant Morrison takes over the JLA as writer.  GM retuerns to the founding 7 members, or their current versions (Wally as Flash, Kyle as GL), and proves that star power and high action = success.  While he expands the team as before, his expansion follows a different pattern.  Green Arrow and Aztek join only to leave almost immediately.  Hawkman is denied him, so GM creates his own enhanced version as Zauriel, the angel.  The old classic Plastic Man joins.  Steel gives the team a high tech Iron Man type, while Huntress gives them more down to Earth perspective.  And Oracle is the electronic eyes, ears, and data access of the League. Orion and Barda of the New Gods round out the team.  They fight aliens, rougue angels, reimagined classic JLA foes, two Injustice Leagues led by Lex Luthor, Darkseid, and the end of all that is.  Oh yeah, GM also does a company wide crossover called DC 1 Million, which gives us a robotic version of Hourman and a JSA team up which brings the JSA back from obscurity. Mark Waid and Joe Kelly each take a turn at the team.  Waid reduces the team back to 8, while Kelly expands that core to include Major Disaster, Faith, Firestorm, Atom, and Mantou Raven (a tribute to Apache Chief of SuperFriends fame).  John Stewart replaces Kyle as the active Green Lantern on the team.  While it still focuses on the big names, the book loses its focus as writers come and go.

 

2007.  Brad Meltzer takes over the team with a new book.  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman.  The newly returned Hal Jordan.  Black Canary.  Green Arrow stays away to give his former ward, Speedy, now Red Arrow a chance.  Red Tornado.  The modern Hawkgirl.  Vixen.  Black Lightning finally joins the team ( At Wizard World Boston in 2005 I asked DC if they would consider adding Black Lightning to the team when it reformed in the "One Year Later" event.  They said they would consider it.).  Dwayne McDuffie takes over this book with issue 13, John Stewart is added as a second GL, and Firestorm (Jason Rusch) joins.  Zatanna and Dr. Light have returned recently.  Now with issue 31, the team has been disbanded once again.  Why?  Basically, we’ve been told that editorial says Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman are not available.  Al

so, Hal is taking off to create his own branch of the Justice League.  Oh, and for those of you who missed it, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Bruce Wayne are currently considered dead.

 I don’t know.  I think the membership of the Justice League is an easy thing to figure out.  Big names sell the book.  2nd tier names allow for a wider range of stories.

Justice League Roll Call

The Big Guns

Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Aquaman
Flash
Green Lantern

 Secondary Members

Plastic Man
Metamorpho
Zatanna
Firestorm
Black Lightning
Black Canary
Green Arrow
Hawkman
Hawkgirl
the Atom
Zauriel
Steel
Martian Manhunter
Shazam
Captain Atom

 So, who would I put in the Justice League?  History has shown me that none of the 2nd tier names are necessary for the team to have good sales and good stories.  I’ve revised my childlike admiration for the Satellite era to say "wait, why were Elongated Man and Red Tornado on this team?"  Morrison finally put Plastic Man on the team and made me like Steel.  Kelly gave me Apache Chief.  Meltzer gave me Vixen and Black Lightning.

SuperFriend’s Justice League.

Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Aquaman
Flash
Green Lantern
–plus–
Black Lightning
Captain Atom
Dr. Light
Firestorm
Hourman Android
Manitou Raven
Plastic Man
Metamorpho
Steel
Vixen
Zatanna
Zauriel

Yeah, that would be a good team.  And of course, Superman is the leader.

Do you have a favorite lineup?  I so, Dan Didio, VP of DC Comics is asing for input at: the Newsarama site.  It is at the end of the article.  "And my question for the readers this week: in reading through the questions this time, I noticed a lot of concern over the Justice League, and a variety of opinions on what the Justice League should be. So let me turn that back to the audience – what would you consider the perfect team for the Justice League f America, and why?"

(picture credits to: Grand Comic Book Database )

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.

 

 

 

11 Comments »

  • David says:

    MY league:
    Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal), Flash (Barry or Wally), Aquaman, Hawkman, Martain Manhunter, Red Tordado, Green (or Red) Arrow, Firestorm (Jason), Black Lightning, Black Canary, or some combination therein. Basically, I agree. Also, I love Zauriel, but no one besides Morrison seems to be able to write him correctly.

  • David says:

    Obviously I meant Red Tornado, not Red Tordado, who is already a member of the LMA, or League of Misspelled Adventurers.

  • Erik says:

    for my jla i usually go with:

    Superman
    Batman
    Wonder Woman
    Black Canary
    Green Arrow
    Green Lantern (Kyle)
    Flash (Wally West)
    Vixen
    Hawkman
    Hawkgirl
    Martian Manhunter
    Zatanna
    Aquaman
    Oracle

  • Daniel_Lioneye says:

    I feel like books like JLA should have about half big guns types, such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and then a backup roster of characters who are fairly well known and popular but need the exposure a bit, or don’t necessarily have what it takes to carry a solo book long term. I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s JLA but felt like the characters couldn’t really evolve, as any big changes that befell them tended to occur in their own books. Look at what the JLU cartoon did for John Stewart, he was the most obscure GL at the beginning of the show but became a big player, both in the show and the comics because he was able to evolve and grow the most of all the characters because not a lot had been done with him and the average man or woman didn’t know much if anything about him. I feel like the Titans lineup is a lot more interesting, and that those characters have a lot more potential for growth than Superman or Wonder Woman.

  • Bunger says:

    I’ll be honest…if Geoff Johns has anything to do with it, I don’t care what members are in it, I’ll buy it.

    His run on Flash, GL, Booster Gold, Teen Titans…I couldn’t put them down. While the cast is great, if you get someone on the book that knows what they are doing, the rest will take care of itself.

    As far as the ideal team goes, I don’t like a big team. So reserves can be everyone that isn’t on the main team.

    Main Team

    Superman
    Batman
    Wonder Woman
    Flash (Wally)
    Green Lantern (Hal or Kyle)
    Firestorm (Ronnie…yeah, I know he’s dead)
    Zatanna
    Atom (Ray Palmer)
    Captaion Atom

    While I like Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, I never really got into them in any incarnation of the league.

    Every other member of the DC Universe can be on backup alert.

  • I could actually read a Justice League Of America run where Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman went a year or two without making an appearance. Same goes for Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman. Wouldn’t bother me at all. I love obscure DC characters, especially when they have a chance to shine and opportunity to have more of their stories told. If the writers want to focus on second-tier and obscure characters, I’d be all for that.

  • Captain Cold says:

    I like obscure DC characters as well. I just don’t think they belong in the Justice League without the Big 5. I think the JL should be the best and brightest, the team which all the heroes want to make the roster. Having a league without the major players of any era is like

    Even when JLI and JLE couldn’t have Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman, they used characters who were MAJOR PLAYERS during that time. (For a while anyway). Captain Atom was huge back then.

    My line up would be:

    Superman
    Batman
    Flash (Barry Allen)
    Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
    Wonder Woman
    Martian Manhunter
    Aquaman
    Black Canary
    Dr. Fate
    Hawkgirl
    Vixen
    Steel
    Green Arrow (Ollie Queen)
    Captain Atom
    The Atom (Ray Palmer)
    Black Lightning

    I wanted to consider Hawkman and Mr. Terrific but I’m also a JSA fan and want them to stay there.
    Booster Gold is a major player right now BUT, if you read his book, you’ll know why he shouldn’t join.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Then there are characters who are ‘associated’ with the League, but their membership is in question. Two of my favorites.
    .
    Phantom Stranger was offered membership in JLoA 103, appeared next in 110, saved the day in 146 and was definitely counted as a member in 150. But since then DC has clouded his membership.
    .
    Adam Strange. Easily one of the League’s most frequent allies, but never a full member because he’s on the planet Rann. I think he is an honorary member. I like to think of him as the Justice League’s man in the Alpha Centari system.

  • syvyn11 says:

    Dan DiDio is working for Marvel.

    They need to put Jasonstorm out to pasture and bring back Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein.

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