Did you read Blackest Night #3 this week? Did you see this ad?
In addition to hyping the new Justice League of America creative team of James Robinson and Mark Bagley, it looks like it fills in all those silhouettes on the previously released image.
It looks like they didn’t quite play fair with those silhouettes, as the characters are drawn at random sizes, so as to make them difficult to identify, but who cares, they’re filled-out now. So is that the line-up? Or just characters appearing in the issue? My guess is the former, if they went to the trouble of obscuring the characters when initially releasing the image in the first place.
If so, it’s a pretty interesting line-up, seemingly chucking the roster and its changes from the Brad Meltzer-to-Dwayne McDuffie run on the title completely in favor of an (almost) all-new team drawing from three sources: Robinson’s Justice League: Cry For Justice series, Robinson’s Superman and the original New Teen Titans line-up.
But are they worthy of Justice League membership? We’ll take a closer look at that cover image, and then I’ll discuss my (admittedly arbitrary) criteria for Justice League worthiness, after the jump.
The way I see it, there are three main qualifications for being a member of the Justice League.
First, a character must be iconic, by which I mean either a legitimate superhero icon, or capable of being one. This is determined (in my mind, anyway) by clarity of concept—are the character’s name, costume and powers their name, reflective or complimentary to one another? Can a reader “get” them within a few seconds of hearing who they are and getting a look at them? Then they’re iconic. (For example, the original seven members of the Justice League are iconic; Gambit is not).
Second, they should ideally be household names, as at least six of the original seven are.
Third, they should be characters that qualify as “the world’s greatest heroes,” within the context of the DC Universe. Like, they have to be characters that one could imagine the people that live within the DCU would themselves consider to be the greatest heroes. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be the most powerful or noble, although those are certainly good qualities, but they should be the best they are at what they do (and what they do should be more readily apparent than what Wolverine does). Dr. Mid-Nite, for example, may not be the most powerful superhero in the world, but the fact that he’s the leading expert in super-medicine would make him a valuable member for the JLA…if he weren’t already spoken for by the JSA.
Okay, ready? Let’s go!
Iconic?: He’s a gorilla from the congo…it’s all right there in his name, isn’t it?
Household name?: No, despite the fact that there was a 1932 movie called Congorilla, and that Congo Bill did have his own film serial in the 1950’s. Both “Congo Bill” and “Congorilla” sound like names that might be household names; like, I bet if you went door to door and asked people if they ever heard of either of those names, they’d say no, but that they sound familiar.
World’s greatest?: Well, he’s probably the world’s greatest gorilla superhero at the moment (Primat from Trinity and maybe Wonder Woman’s roommates are probably his only competition). Additionally, Congo Bill’s brain should be chockfull of information about Africa, wildlife, tracking, hunting and suchlike, making him an expert or authority on several subjects that a lot of superheroes probably don’t know much of anything about.
Verdict?: Sure, he fits okay. The one thing I don’t like about him in the Justice League is the way he seems to visually fit the big, strong, monster-guy role that so many of the terrible superhero teams that grew like weeds in the ‘90s seemed to require having around.
Iconic?: Mmmmmmmmaybe as Wonder Girl. Maybe. And most of that icon-ocity is just residual iconic-ness from her association with Wonder Woman. But as Donna Troy? She doesn’t even have a superhero name, which is probably the bare minimum requirement for what you need to qualify as a superhero. Even more so than superpowers, you need a superhero name, as all those super-folks without powers like Green Arrow prove. Her costume also costs her points, as it’s a weak enough design that it changes drastically depending on who’s drawing and/or coloring any issue she appears in.
Household name?: Ha ha ha ha ha! No.
World’s greatest?: Even though she’s probably only the world’s second or third greatest super-powered Amazon warrior, she’s probably the world’s greatest Wonder Woman understudy, so I guess that’s something.
Verdict?: If Wonder Woman is League material based on her powers and skills, Donna Troy is probably also League material—as long as Wonder Woman is otherwise engaged.
Iconic?: Like Donna Troy, Mon-El lacks a superhero identity, unless he starts calling himself Valor or something before this debuts. His costume says “Superman, but slightly different,” so he gets points for both a strong look (even if it is borrowed) and advertising his Superman-like powers through his costume.
Household name?: No.
World’s greatest?: His particular power set is a popular one—Supergirl, Power Girl, Superboy and even Krypto all have practically the exact same one. If they’re all committed to other teams (and/or are dogs), then Mon-El would conceivably fill-in for Superman on the Justice League…at least until Supes gets back from New Krypton.
Verdict: I honestly don’t see a reason why she should be on the League, but hopefully his presence will make some sense a little further down the road.
Iconic?: You know it. As Batman, Robin and maybe even Nightwing at this point, Dick Grayson is one of the most famous comic book characters of all time.
Household name?: Definitely, either as Batman or as Dick Grayson.
World’s greatest?: Well, he’s not the world’s greatest detective, escape artist, acrobat or fighter, but he’s gotta be in or close to the top percentile in a lot of those categories, and he’s definitely one of the most experienced superheroes on earth. He’s often referred to in comics as one of the most widely trusted and respected superheroes.
Verdict: If anyone belongs on the Justice League, it’s Dick Grayson, whatever costume he’s wearing (And he did serve on the team as Nightwing for a short time during the “Obsidian Age” storyline). And now that Batman is suffering from a temporary case of maybe being kinda sorta dead-ish, one can’t even make the redundancy argument about his presence on the roster.
DR. LIGHT II
Iconic?: Her powers, costume and name are all perfectly compatible, so in conception she’s iconic or at least potentially iconic, save for the fact that she’s a legacy character. Of a villain. Who has recently been retconned into perhaps the most reprehensible villain in super-comics. I’m still not sure why she hasn’t changed her name.
Household name?: Nah, despite some cameos in Justice League Unlimited.
World’s greatest?: As far as light powers go, I suppose she’s probably a heavy hitter of sorts, and her background as a scientist makes her valuable to the team.
Verdict: Sure, why not. The fact that she’s already on the Justice League of America means Robinson won’t exactly have to do any weird story gymnastics to get her there either.
GREEN ARROW OLIVER QUEEN
Iconic?: Another perfect powers/costume/name synthesis.
Household name?: Hmm, I wouldn’t know for sure without doing a survey, but I imagine his long-time presence in JLA comics, his prominent role in Justice League Unlimited and appearances on other shows like Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Smallville would make him so.
World’s greatest?: Sure. If he’s not the world’s greatest archer, he’s at least the best archer the JLA has contact info for.
Verdict: He actually seems pretty out of place on the Justice League these days. Green Arrow Conner Hawke and Red Arrow may not be the archer Ollie is, but they both shoot arrows really well, and are more versatile besides—Hawke is one of the world’s greatest martial artists, and Red Arrow has the Bullseye-like ability to use anything as a devastatingly effective projectile weapon. Given the big deal that was made out of having his one-time sidekick Roy Harper graduate to the Justice League and replace Ollie on the roster, it seems strange for Ollie to take his spot back so quickly. Additionally, I thought his actions in Identity Crisis disqualified him from League membership—ditto the rest of the “Power Pact”—and if those actions didn’t, how about torturing villains in Cry For Justice?
I’d say he doesn’t belong at all, but given that Robinson has so many characters from the Cry For… miniseries he’s currently writing, I’m sure there’s a story reason for Ollie’s presence.
THE ATOM RAY PALMER
Iconic?: Sure, despite the fact that he’s a legacy character, he’s replaced the original Atom in prominence in the same way Hal Jordan and Barry Allen replaced their namesakes.
Household name?: Like Green Arrow, he’s probably straddling the line between being a household name and not being one.
World’s greatest?: While there’s another guy with the exact same name and the exact same powers, this Atom is certainly the more experienced of the two, and has served on Justice Leagues with several of these other characters. In addition to his shrinking powers, Ray Palmer has got to be the DC Universe’s foremost authority on super-physics.
Verdict?: Robinson’s been writing him as shrinky, brainless Jack Bauer lately, and it might be more interesting to use the new Atom on the Justice League on account of the new guy being less boring, but sure, he belongs just fine.
Iconic?: Well, her name reflects her powers, although her costume is merely purple plastic lingerie. Her comet-trail hair is an interesting signature visual though.
Household name?: Probably not, although I imagine a whole bunch of kids know her name from the Teen Titans cartoon—not that that Starfire is anything at all like this one.
World’s greatest?: Not really. Starfire can fly and shoot energy blasts out of her hands. Can’t, like, half the superheroes in the DC Universe do that? She doesn’t really have any skill set beyond her powers, unless you count “being from outer space” or “being from a warrior race,” but as long as you’ve got a Green Lantern and an Amazon on the team, neither of those seem very valuable.
Verdict?: Keep her with the Titans.
Household name?: Maybe not, despite appearing in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, Teen Titans and Smallville. But like Dr. Light, Green Arrow and The Atom, the fact that his name describes him so perfectly ought make up for his relative lack of pre-existing name recognition. One might not know him as well as, say, Batman or Aquaman, but once you hear his name you know his whole deal.
World’s greatest?: Cyborg doesn’t really bring much to the table that isn’t already there.
Verdict?: I’ve always thought of Cyborg as grandfathered into the comic book Justice League, by virtue of being the cartoon version in the ‘80s cartoon. He’s also black. I think Steel, Vixen, Green Lantern John Stewart, Black Lightning and even Firestorm II (if he’s still alive by the time JLoA #38 hits shelves) should probably all get nods before Cyborg by virtue of already being Justice Leagurers, but Cyborg will fit in okay. Naturally, he might seem to belong on The Titans team more, but, on the other hand, the other Titans have treated him pretty poorly for a while, so I’m sure he wants to get as far away from some of those jerks as possible.
Iconic?: Did Jack Kirby create him?
Household name?: No.
World’s greatest?: Hmm, perhaps only in the field of law enforcement, although pretty much every superhero has some experience in the field, even if only unofficially.
Verdict: He doesn’t have a lot going for him, it’s true, but, on the other hand, I think the strength of the character design and his real-life parentage ought to count for something (personally, I think there should always be at least one Jack Kirby-created hero on the Justice League at any time). Additionally, his Captain America-ness will make him an interesting addition to DC’s premiere super-team, in much the same way that The Sentry’s Superman-ness mad him a (potentially) interesting addition to the Avengers.
GREEN LANTERN HAL JORDAN
Household name?: If not, he’s gotta be getting close by now.
World’s greatest?: Well, this one’s tricky. He’s one of, let’s see…five guys from the planet Earth with the same powers, and one of 7200 people in the galaxy with those powers. Is he “greater” than Alan Scott, Guy Gardener, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner? I’ve never seen much evidence of it in the comics, beyond hearing other characters talk about how great he is. (Did you know he once had a threesome with The Huntress and Lady Blackhawk? Man, what a cool guy!) Alan is more experienced, Kyle is more imaginative, John is more disciplined and a better team player, and so on.
Verdict: Honestly I don’t know why the Justice League even talks to this guy anymore. Even supposing they forgive him for that one time he went crazy, killed billions of people and then un-made the entire universe (It wasn’t his fault! He was possessed!), there’s still Identity Crisis, and his temper tantrum at the beginning of Cry For Justice where he was all “Waah! Waah! I am the law! Screw this stupid organization I co-founded, it sucks!” and then went to go make Supergirl cry and do some enhanced interrogation.
Within the DCU, John Stewart would seem like a better choice for a Justice League Green Lantern, since he’s been working with the team longer than Hal since Hal’s return from the dead, and since he’s more of a team player.
From here in the real world, John Stewart would also seem like a better choice, since Hal Jordan stars in Green Lanterns. JLoA has been John’s book, while Hal had GL and Kyle and Guy had Green Lantern Corps (And Alan has JSoA, if you want to count him as a Lantern). If John’s out and Hal’s in, John will be the only Lantern without a book to call home.
Jordan certainly belongs on the Justice League, but he’d be my second choice behind John Stewart at this point.