As the last remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo bluster across the North East, I’m still still working my way through the last discs of the Arrow box set before I blog about Black Canary’s graphic novel. But that line of thought led me to a current DC team title where Green Arrow has been featured.
Justice League United was originally advertised as Justice League Canada. However, aside from a Cree teenager with mystical powers who doesn’t really participate in the first story arc, the series actually appears to be riding the coat tails of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. That aforementioned arc was set on Thanagar’ moon and revamped both Adam Strange and the obscure Ultra the Multi-Alien, a space-going Sixties rip-off of Metamorpho.
The Canadian elements are comically scant compared to Byrne’s Alpha Flight of three decades ago. In one of my favourite titles between 1983 and 1985, the curmudgeon writer/artist crafted dark, compelling and ground-breaking adventures for his creations, evoking mental illness and Elder Gods. He killed off the Alphans leader and replaced him with his own civilian wife; replaced 25 per cent of the team by the end of its second year; and with Puck, Aurora and Shaman shaped contributions to the House of Ideas as authentic and iconic as the Lee/ Kirby/Ditko legends of the 60s.
In my opinion, JL Canada ought to be replaced by a franchise more worthy of revival and one that’s also of 30 years vintage. Because October 1984 saw the release of Justice League Annual 2.
Gerry Conway had sought to revitalise the dwindling sales of JLA in the light of the success of X-Men and DC’s Legion and New Teen Titans. Since many of DC’s heavy hitters, including Batman, Flash (and lesser lights like the Atom ) were out of bounds in the early 80s, Conway devised a smaller, less-powerful team. He would have greater control over their storylines and he chose to make up numbers with new, young heroes based in a real-life locale: Detroit, the Motor City of Vandellas fame.
Steel was a new iteration of Conway’s homefront hero of WWII- a blend of Cap and Iron Man – while Vixen had been a casualty of the late 70s DC Implosion (and possibly another version of an abortive Ms.Marvel villain, the Fox). Gypsy and the reviled Vibe were youthful characters who had echoes of pop sensations Madonna and Menudo. I was intrigued by the idea of a DC team that interacted with ordinary people and the “Marvelization” of Conway’s approach appealed to me.
It wasn’t a comic I rated that highly,however- at the time, Claremont’s X-Men/New Mutants canvas appealed a great deal but the Baxter Legion and Titans comics (and Byrne’s aforementioned Alpha Flight) were probably the team books that impressed me most. Nevertheless, I tracked down the first few issues with their interlinking covers. Then the team had an obligatory Reagan-esque USSR incursion with a hokey maestro villain and Vixen went solo for one issue.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, JLDetroit experienced a number of reversals: art by George Tuska a return to the Secret Sanctuary cave of the Fox/Sekowsky era and the domineering presence of Batman- which suggested this was another branch of the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Outsiders.
Despite popular belief, the Detroit League wasn’t “the team fans love to hate”: reaction to the new direction had been more moderate. But the upshot of the continuing fall in sales was that the new kids were all killed off or written out to make way for the naturalism and “dramedy” of Justice League International.
And yet, the Detroit League refused to die. Gypsy continued into the 90s in Justice League Task Force. Vixen was a member of the Meltzer League; and an entire new issue of the series appeared just prior to the New 52 in 2011, as part of the DC Retroactive event. Then, startlingly, new versions of Steel and Vibe appeared, the latter even winning his own short-lived comic.
Now, obviously the JLA should be the Olympians, the “Legends” if you will of the DCU. A dozen or more ( in the Satellite Era) champions who have proven their mettle (although I’ve always believed Bridwell’s Biblical hero the Seraph deserved a place at the table.)
But alongside my newly-minted daytime devotion to the scuzzy NYC of Kojak repeats, Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers has been my favourite Marvel comic for over a year now.
An ethnically-diverse, second -stringer team in a metropolitan neighbourhood would also be a welcome direction in the DCU. So submitted for your approval: Urban Justice, if you will.
Black Canary: team leader ( and widow).
Booster Gold: Heart. media-savvy. Defensive capabilities.
John Jones: In his Smallville form as played by Phil Morris. Brain (psi-powers)
Supergirl: Muscle and integrity.
Red Arrow: Both arms intact. Single father. Playing up Navajo heritage.
Hawgirl (New 52 Earth-2 version): Hispanic heroine with Thanagar tech. Awkard romance with Roy.
Janissary: Muslim heroine with magical scimitar. Brawler.
Fate: wild card! 90s demon hunter.
Guest appearances by new Korean -American hero
The Ray, Firestorm, Big Barda, Power Girl and Nuklon.
Villains: the Star Conqueror, of course, the Wizard and the immortal Vandal Savage.
This is the line-up I’d pitch for a story arc called “Community Relations”. Thoughts? Comments?
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