My Justice League, Part 2

Green Arrow wallpaper
Incarnations of Green Arrow

Sorry for this delayed post — I’ve been busy with work. This past weekend, Janice and I visited New England Comics, Newbury Comics, and Million Year Picnic in Norwood and Cambridge, Massachusetts. We also ate at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and Boston Market for the first times in several months.

Among other things, I picked up a few role-playing supplements (including the aforementioned DC Adventures: Heroes and Villains, Vol. 1) at Pandemonium Books & Games and the Compleat Strategist. We had to deal with “gamer funk” from hordes of collectible card players and wargamers at the former, but we had no trouble looking at the bookshelves in the latter.

I was pleased to see that costume shops are getting ready for Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. This past weekend would have been a good one for the King Richard’s Faire, but we had enough other errands to run, and I’m still trying to get my Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy group going again.

Returning to the DC Comics universe, as I catch up on the revised official continuity, or “DCnU,” below are some picks for my ideal Justice League. I’ll try not to obsess over costumes and continuity, and I’ll try to review DC’s actual titles in the near future.

I’d pick the Ryan Choi version of the Atom because he’s the most recent incarnation of the character, he adds some ethnic diversity, and he can represent a younger hero who has “graduated” to the major leagues. (Sure, he was killed, but we all know that’s not a permanent condition in ever-changing yet cyclical comics.) With predecessor Ray Palmer and Justice Society member Mr. Terrific as mentors, Choi would likely view the Titans‘ Cyborg as his closest peer. I could also see the Atom mentoring Jaime Reyes/the Blue Beetle in Young Justice.

Like Marvel’s Ant Man, Choi’s Atom is the resident expert in physics and weird science. When he’s not infiltrating enemy lairs or solving life-and-death puzzles, I picture Choi exploring the microverse, chatting with fellow scientist the Flash, or tinkering with Red Tornado. He might be a bit intimidated by the “Big Three” and would probably annoy less patient comrades such as Hawkgirl.

Every team needs a magician, and Zatanna is the Justice League’s. The fishnet-wearing, backward-speaking stage performer is similar to the Avengers’ Scarlet Witch and could ask the Justice Society’s Doctor Fate (or even her late father) for advice. Raven would be her likely contact in the Titans, and Zatanna‘s cousin Zachary Zatara has been in Young Justice.

While Zatanna is among the few people who can call Bruce Wayne or John Constantine friends, I figure that Superman, who is vulnerable to magic, would be wary of her. By contrast, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are comfortable with magic and would often rely on her when dealing with the supernatural foes of Themyscira and Atlantis.

Yes, I chose Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl partly because she was in Justice League Unlimited. I’d respectfully call her “Hawkwoman,” but the longer name doesn’t roll off the tongue. Her role as winged warrior mirrors that of lover Hawkman in the Justice Society, Hawk and Dove in the Titans, or Wasp in the Avengers. Whether she’s a reincarnated Egyptian noble, an archaeologist with mystical weapons, an extraterrestrial police officer, or all of the above, Hawkgirl should kick butt and take names.

As in the Dini/Timm cartoon, Hawkgirl should get along with Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, if less so with romantic rival Vixen or liberal firebrand Green Arrow. Hawkgirl‘s knowledge of procedure, tactics, and obscure history could be balanced by claustrophobia and distrust of her motives (depending on her origin).

Like peanut butter and jelly — or, more properly, Oreos and milk — the Martian Manhunter goes with most recent incarnations of the Justice League. In the DCnU, he’s now with Stormwatch, another “major league” team. The shapeshifting telepath is almost as powerful as Superman, but the Martian Manhunter is more alien than human and provides an outsider’s perspective on humanity and superhumanity.

Like the Titans’ Starfire and Beast Boy, J’onn J’onzz can be refreshingly naïve or stubbornly idealistic. I think the Martian Manhunter would get along well with Superman, Elastic Man, Plastic Man, and the Outsiders’ Metamorpho. His protégé on Young Justice is Miss Martian. If Batman is the brains behind the Justice League, Superman the brawn, and Wonder Woman the heart, Martian Manhunter is the informal mascot and morale officer.

A second-generation costumed vigilante, Black Canary is another tough woman in the Justice League, but she has a different perspective from the aristocratic Wonder Woman or soldier/cop Hawkwoman. Dinah Drake Lance grew up knowing the entire Justice Society, including her mother (Black Canary I) and trainer Wildcat. Black Canary II is a street-level heroine who supplements her sonic scream with martial arts skill, not unlike Marvel’s Mockingbird.

While other Justice League members have sidekicks, Dinah can call on her other teams, including the Justice Society, the Birds of Prey (Oracle, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, and Spoiler, among others), and the “families” of Batman and Green Arrow. A cross between a den mother and a drill sergeant, Black Canary helps keep the Justice League in line. She tends to let her hair down with Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and the Birds of Prey.

Speaking of Green Arrow, the Justice League’s social conscience has been one of my favorite superheroes since Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunters and subsequent run in the late 1980s. The Robin Hood-inspired archer, onetime wealthy playboy, and chili-loving rogue adds unpredictability and emotion to the team.

As much as I like the works of Judd Winick, Kevin Smith, and others, I think that Oliver Queen has been put through the wringer a bit too much lately. The fun-loving (and nonpowered) daredevil who shamelessly uses trick arrows, copies Batman’s toys, and flirts with every woman in sight has been dragged down by mystical forces and deaths (and rebirths) of himself and close friends.

The sometime financial backer of the Justice League is closer lately to Russell Crowe’s dour Robin Hood and Marvel’s Ultimate Hawkeye than to Errol Flynn. I’m also not sure about Ollie’s Smallville-influenced costume and lack of a goatee in the DCnU, but I hope the costumed vigilante and his universe can return to a sense of heroic fun.

Green Arrow‘s protégés include the troubled former sidekick Roy Harper/Arsenal in the Titans, his philosophical son Connor Hawke, and Arrowette and Mia Darden/Speedy II in Young Justice. Even though he can be annoying to nearly everybody he meets, Ollie is of course close to wife Dinah Lance, best friend Hal Jordan/Green Lantern II, and even Batman. The emerald archer’s progressive politics may put him afoul of Hawkman, but the Justice League has no more dedicated champion.

Coming soon: More Justice Leaguers, “Vortex” game updates, and the new SFTV season!

My Justice League, Part 1

Pre-DCnU Justice League
Pre-"Flashpoint/DCnU" Justice League

DC Comics has been releasing more issues in its recalibrated universe (a.k.a. the “DCnU“). Many fans and critics greeted the renumbered titles with skepticism, but I still give DC’s editorial management credit for a bolder experiment than usual annual crossovers, which inevitably lead to a short-term spike in readership followed by diminishing returns. Many of the early reviews have been positive so far. I liked the first issues of the renumbered Justice League, in which Batman and Green Lantern met for the first time, and Action Comics, featuring a denim-clad Superman.

I’ve already blogged about how I would approach DC’s “Big Three” — Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman — with a mix of reverence to their 70 years of shared history and an attempt to keep them young and relevant for new audiences across serialized media.

As I’ve portrayed the Justice League in my “Societe de Justice Internationale” role-playing scenarios (using GURPS Supers and Mutants & Masterminds), that group of superheroes is the “national team,” similar in theme and power levels to Marvel’s Avengers. It has international branches, but it is based in the U.S. and focuses on threats such as natural disasters, alien invasions, and supervillains that no single superhero can handle alone.

The “major leagues” include the Justice Society, which is composed of “legacy” heroes — semiretired costumed vigilantes and their children and grandchildren. Marvel has its Invaders. The Justice Society, which began in World War II, disbanded during the Cold War (in a parallel to the censorship of comics) and served as mentors and inspiration to the Justice League.

The experienced metahumans of the Justice Society and Justice League have a few offshoots, such as Justice League International, the covert Outsiders, the futuristic Legion of Superheroes, and the street-level Birds of Prey. I’d put Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four at this level.

The “minor leagues” include the young adults of the (formerly Teen) Titans and the up and coming Young Justice. Marvel’s equivalents include the New Mutants, Runaways, and Young Avengers. Some of the people on these supergroups are the protégés of older heroes. Just as the Justice League has its Legion of Doom, so do the sidekicks have their own foes, such as the Brotherhood of Evil.

I like this generational aspect and would try to keep it. See my previous blog posts on how relative ages should work out. For example, the Justice Society’s Nite Owl is the protégé of the Golden Age hero of the same name, and Batman (about age 30) is the dark vigilante of the night in the Justice League. In turn, Batman’s former sidekick Nightwing (about 20) leads the Titans, and Red Robin (age 17) is on Young Justice.

For the sake of convenience, I’m limiting my ideal Justice League roster to 12 members. In upcoming posts, I’ll share which characters I picked and why. My approach is similar to that taken by the very cool DC Adventures: Heroes and Villains, Vol. 1.

Animation endures on TV

Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Marvel's Avengers

Despite the decline in live-action TV superheroes, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is both faithful to the comic books and relatively popular. I’ve already mentioned the cancellation of the campy and fun Batman and the Brave and the Bold, but I hope that Young Justice (whose animation is smoother than most Marvel projects) and defiantly kid-friendly Super Hero Squad keep going.

I haven’t watched the latest iteration of Transformers, and it’s too bad that Genndy Tartakovsky’s SymBionic Titan didn’t get the support it deserved. The counterterrorist, anticorporate, and on-the-run take on G.I. Joe is interesting, but I’ve only seen a little of it. Many of the cartoons on the Cartoon Network, Fox, and Nickelodeon aren’t really my style, but I am looking forward to the anthropomorphic animals of the upcoming Thundercats and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots.

The Looney Tunes Show is an interesting sitcom approach to the classic Warner Brothers characters, and I wonder whether Seth McFarlane’s revival of The Flintstones can succeed alongside the postmodern sarcasm of The Simpsons and its ilk.

In direct-to-video tie-ins, I just picked up Marvel’s Thor: Tales of Asgard, and I’m looking forward to DC’s animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Batman: Year One, and Justice League: Doom. Between live-action movies, video and TV, and of course comic books, it’s no surprise that several role-players in my groups have asked about D20 Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Ed. or Icons! Fellow Game Master Jason E.R. may run a one-shot of Dark Pages this coming summer.

Coming soon: Horror and fantasy TV and games!