the Justice League should be a Franchise‏
December 26, 2009

 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.
 
Flagship book.
==========
 
Title: Justice League of America
 
Cast:
 
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.
 
Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Flash
Aquaman
 
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?
 
Affiliate Books
==========
 
1. Title: Justice League: Outsiders.
Rebrand the current Outsiders book as part of the JL franchise.  Simply change its name.
 
Why:
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.
 
The Goal
=======
 
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.

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.

 

 

 

8 Comments »

  • chad says:

    i agree with what your saying that Dc needs to step up to the plate and make the jl be a franchise. though would replace aquaman with Martian manhunter mostly due to the fact that he has been in every incarnation of the team and is considered the heart provided he is resurected alive after blackest night. and the second jl team book could be like the blue team of xm-men or the new avengers one core team one other team that can have new members and give characters like blue beetle a way to increase fan base

  • Brainlock says:

    A: I consider the JSA title(s) to be JLA spin-offs, as well as the “Cry for Justice” series (which I passed on). There’s three additional “Justice” titles right there.

    B: Over half of The Titans roster just got bumped up to the League, leaving Gar and “Lefty” (sorry Roy!) in that book. While some have deserved the step up, The Titans has been circling cancellation on several fronts, imo. From sub-par rehashed stories passing for writing to horrendous art, this title was an obvious fanwank to Titans purists whose characters needed a home before they were torn apart by other stories.

    C: as far as line-ups go, I would like the main book to be the Big 7 again, maybe spots 8-9 filled by a rotating chair(s) like Atom, Plas, GA, Tornado, etc. The second book can be simply “Justice League” and feature favorites of Leagues past, like Canary, Steel, Booster, Beetle, Fire, Ice, Firestorm-JR, Vixen, Hawkman, GL Stewart, Blue Devil, etc.

    If you absolutely need a third title, how about “Justice League: Unlimited”? A nod to the cartoon, but also a rotating showcase of anyone who was a member? Or have one Headlining member leading a rotating team of other heroes on each mission, like JLTF started out as? I’m thinking a more international flavor for this one?

    Failing that, just make The Titans the tertiary JLA group with their core cast and a few past members of both teams like KYLE! and Grant, maybe Conner Hawke? and I’ve always wanted to see Ronnie’s Firestorm with his peers in this group. One page of a HyperTime Donna getting erased out of existence does NOT count! (altho I still wonder if someone remembered my letter asking for Nightwing to occasionally start using the departed Golden Eagle’s armor way back when….)

    Not too sure about JL:Outsiders idea, except maybe as the “dirty work” team, like X-Force or T-bolts/Dark Avengers are at Marvel. Not quite Suicide Squad or Secret Six, but close enough. (sorry, I don’t read these titles, either.)

    Then again, don’t we all have out own wishlists for our “Ultimate” teams?

  • JoeAce says:

    1: Sorry Brainlock, I think that JSA fans will agree that they are not a spin-off of the Justice League. The JSA came first, and the team is one of the best in the DC Universe. I will always like the JSA better than the JLA.

    2: With Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman out of the picture for now, DC has been exploring other characters to fill the ranks of the Justice League. This is a good way to introduce some of these characters to new readers. The upcoming story in Justice League of America #41-#43 will cover the “Team History” and the legacy that has been passed on.

    3. I agree with the Justice League Unlimited concept, of having a large team and sending out various rotating members on missions. Kind of like what they did in the cartoon and in Justice League of America #147-#148 when 3 teams worked together. This would be a separate book from the main JLA title.

    • Brainlock says:

      Joe,
      Yes, I am aware of the JSA being around longer, but I only say “JSA” is a spin-off of “JLA” because it followed in the wake of Morrison’s relaunch. Not to mention it did spin out of the JLA arc, “Crisis Times Five”. Both books have been rebooted with their FULL titles.

  • Glenn Moss Glenn Moss says:

    I like the idea of expanding the JLA into a franchise. Your idea is an excellent one and could work to revive some characters and books that are fading into extinction.

    I never understood why DC didn’t capitalize on the JLU. Here is the perfect premise for a multitude of titles. A core group as you suggest and a couple of floating memberships that come and go as the story dictates. A title that is affiliated but independent. It could occasionally have one or two of the big guns appear, but is generally comprised of the “other” heroes. Linking the Outsiders, Teen Titaans and the Doom Patrol to the JLA/JLU would make for some interesting story combinations and character interaction.

    The primary thing is that there would have to be a quarterly meeting of the minds by the creative teams. Everybody talks about what they are doing and going to do. Include cross references if necessary. If there are to be OCCASIONAL multi-title cross-overs have the details hammered out before the last minute and make them worth the reader buying the other titles. But, that said, don’t make the cross over a regular thing. Maybe once ever other or every three years.

    Things should be created so that story arcs are completed and the finished product done before the publishing starts. Nothing will kill a series faster than delays.

    Keep egos in check and remember that the bottom line is profitability and that everyone does well when the books sell.

  • Nemar says:

    As a major DC fan I really appreciated this article or blog. All of your points dead on. It’s time to let DC shine all the way.

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    I think there might be two Justice League books in our future and they certainly could turn the current Outsiders book into one like you suggest for a third one. That’d be cool.

    I want all of Blackest Night, but after that I won’t touch anything Robinson writes anymore so no Justice League for me though.

  • You_will_forget says:

    I personally loved Kelly’s League and the Elite running side by side, and can certainly see a second and possibly third team or title working.

    The team does need to have a solid theme or purpose in each case. An Elite/Outsiders-style team is the obvious first choice, though I also like the idea of a title focusing on more ground-level international work. Possibly a split title with two teams/storylines running side by side, a little like Green Arrow/Black Canary.

    But written better.

    Jo

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