In our inaugural installment, we talked at length about the notion of two ongoing Justice League books and wondered about which character might figure into a team line-up. That’s all well and good, but it all made me think about another of the overriding questions when it comes to team books: the mission statement. What, exactly, should the Mission Statement of a “Justice League” be?
If we review this historically, we’ll find that, implicit or explicit, each version of the JLA formed with some particular charge in mind. Granted, some of those were occasionally added after the fact, and others came more from the writers and artists than from the assemblage of characters. Let’s review some of the major turns on this idea.
The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes V.1: The original version of the JLA that operated out of the cave headquarters was composed, essentially, of DC’s best and brightest at the time. Martian Manhunter might not have been a huge star, but he was certainly a powerful character. Everyone else headlined a magazine or feature; Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman had never been out of publication, Aquaman was quite well-known, and Flash and Green Lantern kick-started the Silver Age at DC.
The next few heroes to join the team (Green Arrow, Hawkman, Atom, etc.) were all modern iterations of very familiar names. In fact, it was explicitly stated in the book over time that there was a “twelve member limit” imposed on the team by the team’s by-laws (though this was more than likely imposed by writers and editors that wanted to reduce traffic and stay sane). The mission of the original JLA was actually to simply protect America and the rest of the planet, which is pretty straight-forward when you think about it.
The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes V.2.: After the move to the Justice League Satellite in 1970, and the removal of the 12-member limit, it seemed that the League’s scope was indeed more global. Certainly, they frequently protected Earth from threats that came both from space and from other dimensions. One of the high points of this era was issue #200 of the original Justice League of America series, wherein fifteen Leaguers saved the Earth from a new Appellexian invasion. However, when it came to Earth politics, the League declined to interfere with particular situations on more than one occasion. Their reticence to get involved in the Markovian conflict led directly to Batman’s resignation and his formation of The Outsiders in 1983.
Local Heroes: The composition of the League changed dramatically in 1984 with the shift to what’s popularly called “The Detroit League” due to their relocation to “The Bunker” in the Motor City. With many of the “Big Guns” busy elsewhere, four League slots were occupied by new or little know heroes: Vixen, Steel, Vibe, and Gypsy. Veterans included Aquaman (for a time), Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, and Firestorm (though not all of those vets were active consistently or simultaneously). Ironically, this is the League that was active during one of the biggest storylines in DC history, Crisis on Infinite Earths. While the mission was still basically the same, the plot-driven notion behind the roster shake-up was the idea that the League needed heroes that could make a full-time commitment. Hence, the loss of some of the more famous fellows.
Thinking Globally, Acting Hilariously: The JLI era arrived when the new Justic e League formed out of 1986’s Legends event. With Vibe killed and Steel permanently incapacitated, Martian Manhunter disbanded the JLA. When Darkseid attacked the Earth, a number of heroes rose to fight his agents. At the close of the adventure, Dr. Fate proposed that the gathered number come together again in the name of “Justice”. Though not all of them stayed (and no one shouted “JUSTICE!”), a new team was indeed born. Quickly, the diverse group went down a more humorous road, particularly after becoming Justice League International with their seventh issue.
This League’s mission tied in with U.N. sponsorship, making them a version of a global peacekeeping force (something that was explicitly explored during the “Teasdale Imperative” storyline, wherein both the American and European-based JL teams had to enter a country that was being overrun by victims of a vampiric effect). The membership at this time took on more international flavor, with Rocket Red (Russia), Fire (Brazil), Ice (Norway), and others joining.
Sensing Wonder: When Grant Morrison relaunced the JLA in 1997, he had a few ideas in mind. First was a return to the “Big” or “Magnificent” Seven as the core of the team. Next was this idea of capturing a “sense of wonder” or mad invention in terms of thinking about story and character on a really, really big scale. As for the mission, Morrison made this somewhat concrete in the fourth issue of the series during a dialogue between Green Lantern and Superman after the White Martian invasion. Superman suggested that the League wasn’t there to push mankind toward its destiny, but rather “to catch them when they fall.” The eventual payoff to that in the final Morrison arc was that the entire world, energized with super-powers, went into action to help save Superman, enabling him to defeat the rogue anti-sun Maggedon. (Okay, I gotta say, even describing Morrison plots is fun; look at that previous crazy-ass sentence.)
Crises: Identity, Infinite and Otherwise: Even though Morrison completed his vision, much of the main idea of his approach remained intact for a while. With the advent of Identity Crisis and the retcons done there, the League splintered just in time for Infinite Crisis. Coming out of that event , a new League was assembled under the auspices of writer Brad Meltzer. That League seemed to be built on the fundament of several prior ideas: mostly big guns, other heroes willing to make a commitment of time, base on Earth AND base in space.
Leagues Don’t Cry: Now, in the current Cry for Justice mini, we’ve seen Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen break off from the main League and drift toward working with heroes that advocate the “pro-active” stance. It’s not a terribly unfamiliar take; we’ve seen it with various versions of The Outsiders, X-Force, and others.
SO . . . here’s the discussion. Of ALL of those various takes, what take works BEST for you, and what take DOESN’T work? You can obviously even mix and match. Nevertheless, we’re looking at:
- Big Guns Only
- Magnificent Seven + Seven Seconds (my apologies to Angeline Thriller; what I mean to say here is the Big Seven plus seven back-up heroes, sort of like the Satellite Era)
- A few Big Guns, a few Young Guns, and Some In between (a la the JLI take or the Meltzer take)
- An American League (no DH, though)
- An International League
- An Intergalactic League
- A team concerned with crime at all levels
- A team that avoids politics
- A team concerned with policy
- A “pro-active” team
- Two teams with different agendas
- A main team and a support team
- A sprawling Justice League Unlimited style team
- A team that occasionally has to be rescued by a purple space monkey
All right, readers; let it fly. Pick one option, combine your options . . . what do you want YOUR League to be?