It's difficult to describe to a non-JLI just how unique that team's chemistry was — how it mixed character moments with humor, drama with action, and heroism with heart.
And although their importance to the DCU obviously lives on — with several starring in Justice League 3001, Booster playing a role in Convergence, and Martian Manhunter getting his own title in June — DC is giving writer Ron Marz the chance to reunite the original team in Convergence: Justice League International.
The two-issue mini-series ties into the main Convergence event, as DC pits Zero Hour-era heroes against Kingdom Come characters. As with all the Convergence tie-ins, the Justice League International book shows how a group of characters from a different era was trapped under a dome by an evil version of Brainiac.
Marz is getting to work with Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Fire, Ice, Captain Atom and Red Tornado — and as we interviewed the writer, he gave Newsarama a hint about whether the "blue" might meet the "gold" during Convergence.
Newsarama: Ron, explain first how this group of characters is together. Pre-Flashpoint, Ted was dead and there was no JLI. So were these heroes ripped from a different time?
Ron Marz: These are actually the pre-Zero Hour roster of the team, or at least close to that roster. Because some characters are otherwise occupied, we had to revise the roster a bit, but the core of the team is very much from that era.
Nrama: Did you have to do research on that time period — dust off some old comics?
Marz: Well, obviously I was just settling in at DC in the pre-Zero Hour era, having started my Green Lantern run less than a year prior to that. So I'm pretty familiar with this time period, but DC was also great in terms of uploading reference material we could all access.
It's a far cry from the days of searching back-issue bins for reference, or waiting for FedEx to bring a box of print copies to your door.
Nrama: What attracted you to these characters and writing their story?
Marz: Honestly, the initial impetus came from Dan DiDio, who called one day and said, "I'd like to see you take on these characters."
This was not a title that I'd even been thinking of, because the iconic Bwa-ha-ha JLI are a bit beyond the kind of material I've usually written.
But doing something you haven't done before is always part of the allure, part of the challenge. Plus, I've always had a real affection for Blue Beetle, and this is a chance for me to write him as a central character.
Nrama: Obviously, you know the Justice League International is a fan-favorite team from that time period — so popular that a we've seen them brought back together several times since then in DC comics. What do you think works so well about this grouping of characters that make up the JLI?
Marz: I think Justice League International has always been a bit of counter-programming to the way a lot of other superhero books, especially team books, are done. JLI embraces the fun side of funny books like few other titles.
There's an audience that wants some variety in their superhero books. I think generally, people return to titles month after month because they're invested in the characters, not necessarily because they're invested in the next big action sequence. JLI has always been a character-driven effort.
Nrama: You mentioned that some characters are busy "elsewhere," and the solicitation didn't mention Booster Gold. But it just seems odd to have "Blue" there without the "Gold." We know Booster is in Convergence somewhere. Any chance for a reunion?
Marz: Booster plays a pivotal role in Convergence as a whole, so there are quite a few demands for his presence across the event.
That said, however, you're right — it seems like there should be some sort of Blue and Gold moment, doesn't it?
Nrama: It does! OK, so what's the premise of the story? What's the set-up as we first meet the characters in your story?
Marz: The team is in Metropolis, headquartered in an embassy building, and they're just trying to keep Metropolis from falling into chaos because of the overall set up in Convergence.
Beetle is the team leader, and the stakes are pretty serious. So there's a balance between the character-driven stuff and just trying to keep Metropolis in one piece.
There's ultimately some disagreement within the team as to the best method to do that. And then, as the solicitation makes apparent, some characters from the Kingdom Come universe arrive and complicate matters.
Nrama: Martian Manhunter's getting his own comic in June, which please his fans. But there are still fans who long for the Martian Manhunter who had a history with the JLI and other DC characters. How would you describe him as you're writing him? And does he eat Oreos?
Marz: I love the Martian Manhunter, I think he's a great character in his own right, and I'm really glad he's getting his own monthly again.
During this era, as the more continuity-minded readers will know, he was in the guise of Bloodwynd. But I really wanted to write the Martian Manhunter as the Martian Manhunter, not disguised as somebody else.
He actually plays a central role in the story, because of the danger Metropolis faces. J'onn has been there to see a world die. He'll do anything to make sure that doesn't happen again.
And as far as the Oreos ... you'll just have to read along and find out.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you're putting these heroes up against Kingdom Come characters. What kind of story does that create?
Marz: It sets up an interesting dynamic, because we're not dealing with typical good guys and bad guys. The JLI and the Kingdom Come heroes are both motivated by doing what's right, but because of the Convergence scenario, those motivations are in conflict. So the heroes end up in conflict.
The interesting part for me as a writer is exploring that dynamic, when nothing is black and white. Is there another way for the situation to be resolved? I'm hoping readers will come into this and feel like they're not sure what to root for.
Nrama: What other characters, both Kingdom Come and Zero Hour, will we see in the issues you're writing?
Marz: The core JLI team is Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Fire, Ice, Captain Atom and Red Tornado ... mostly because I've wanted to write Red Tornado since I was 8 years old.
For the Kingdom Come characters, I'd rather keep the identities under wraps for now, because I think stories should retain as many of their surprises as possible. I'm the last guy who's going to spoil one of his own stories. But I can tell you that we've got some of the heavy hitters from Kingdom Come.
Nrama: What's it been like working with Mike Manley?
Marz: Mike is a pro's pro, obviously. The pages are beautiful, and the storytelling is effortless. It's all there. It's such a boon for a writer to know that your script is being put in the hands of someone who's going to hit every note you want, and then add more of his own.
Marz: This is the most fun you're ever going to have in a story about the end of the world!