In the late 1930s, the Golden Age of Comics began, bringing us the first true generation of superheroes. The Crimson Avenger, the Sandman, Hourman, the Flash, Starman, the Golden Age Green Lantern, various others. Several of these heroes formed the Justice Society of America, the world’s first team of heroes. After years of service, they retired for various reasons. Decades passed with a few scattered champions occasionally showing up. The Modern Age of Heroes in the DC Universe began when Clark Kent made his debut as Superman, heralding a new generation of costumed crime-fighters and adventurers. There was Batman, Wonder Woman, the Blue Beetle, along with a new Green Lantern, a new Flash, and eventually a few new Starmen as well. Several of these heroes wound up working on the team known as the Justice League of America, successor of the JSA.
Some years back, in the crossover DC 1 Million, written by Grant Morrison, the JLA met the Justice Legion Alpha, a group of champions from the 853rd century who had inherited the mantles or been inspired by the legends of the modern day heroes. Justice Legion A was composed of a new Batman, the descendant of Superman, a new Wonder Woman, a time-traveling Flash from the 27th century, the descendant of the original Starman, a new Aquaman, and an android calling himself the Hourman. Each of the Justice Legion A was headquartered on one of the solar system’s nine planets (evidently, future generations decide that Pluto actually IS a planet, thank you very much) and joined forces when necessary to protect their sector of space and reality itself.
So let’s look at these strange heroes of the distant future. There were many other heroes we saw in the 853rd century, but we’ll be focusing on the core field members of the JL Alpha that we saw in the initial storyline.
THE HOURMAN – MASTER OF SPACE AND TIME
So here’s the original Hourman, introduced in 1940, who served as the model for our future-born hero to follow. This Golden Age hero was Rex Tyler, who used a drug of his own design called Miraclo to gain super-human strength, durability and reflexes for an hour at a time. Today, his son Rick serves as Hourman in a similar outfit. But at the time that DC 1 Million was released, Rex’s son Rick had only briefly acted in that role and had worn a very different red and purple costume. So we won’t be discussing him since his design had nothing to do with this Hourman of the future (who later used the alias “Matthew Tyler”).
The Hourman of Justice Legion A is an artificial being, describing himself as “a Tyler Chemorobotics diamond generation intelligent machine colony” and explaining at times that he is “DNA-programmed with Tyler Miracle gene biosoftware.” When we first met him, he was mysterious and aloof, a student of Metron of the New Gods, a cosmic entity/scientist who regularly cruised from one end of reality to another.
With time and space as this Hourman’s playground, it’s natural that he’d seem a bit strange and magical even amongst the heroes of his era. This cloak is pretty simple, but it works for him. It says he’s the guy who’s going to make cryptic remarks that only he fully understands and whose sense of things is rather beyond us. Think of an android Merlin, which is especially fitting since some stories say Merlin lived backwards or “sideways” in time.
After the events of DC 1 Million, the android Hourman infused with Tyler DNA attempted to act as a hero in the modern-day. He set up blocks and limitations to his powers and time-senses and did his best to emulate superheroes of the age. This meant a change in wardrobe, something that says “crime-fighter” more than “time wizard.”
This is a stronger nod to the original Hourman’s suit. It’s sleeker and more stylized than Rex Tyler’s outfit. Instead of boots, he seems to have just graphic designs indicating boots. But it’s also more human. This android no longer wanted to be aloof, he wanted to understand people and form friendships. This is a changed being who later enjoys taking on the name “Matthew.” This whole costume emphasizes his goal to be more grounded.
The cape clasp being a sundial is a nice nod to the fact that this Hourman is a master of time in many forms. And while Rex wore an hourglass for decoration, our boy here has a functional hourglass. When he activates his full temporal abilities, they would only last for an hour of relative time and so the hourglass on his chest would turn to keep track of this. Also notice the design around the hourglass. It is, in effect how this Hourman sees time, as a circuit or a continuum, sometimes shifting but always headed down the same basic path. Interesting style.
STARMAN – WIELDER OF THE QUARVAT
The original Starman was Ted Knight, back in 1941 created by Gardner Fox and my old friend Jack Burnley. As you can see here, he’s got a pretty simple costume. It’s almost Superman’s uniform, in fact, except for an alteration in colors and the addition of a head piece. There have been several heroes to use the name Starman since Ted, but he was the first and definitely the one in mind when his descendant, Farris Knight of the 853rd century, was designed.
Farris Knight is stationed in a satellite occupying the orbit of Uranus. His outfit may look radically different at first, but it actually follows the same basic design as what Burnley drew many years ago. Like Ted, Farris has a star on his chest and no other real decoration. Like Ted, he relies on a hand-held weapon for his powers (Ted called it a “gravity rod” and later a “cosmic rod”, whereas Farris’s weapon is called a Quarvat). Ted had the finned headpiece, indicating a Roman-style of helmet, and Farris here wears a literal helmet.
Ted Knight drew the power of the stellar radiation to energize his weapon. Farris Knight lets us know this is the source of his power by seemingly wrapping himself in actual stars. His sleek body suit resembles a void lit by a single sun and his cape interior is decorated by a nebula. This would not be possible with today’s tech, but this is a man from the far future and so fabric will do what we imagine it can do. A great redesign. The helmet looks a bit clunky to me, but it’s a minor quibble.
FLASH – GUARDIAN OF MERCURY
There have been three Flashes in the 20th century alone. Jay Garrick, the original, modeled himself as a modern-day Mercury with a matching helmet. His successor Barry Allen wore a full bodysuit with more lightning decoration to it, symbolizing that his origin had involved being struck by lightning. His protege Wally West later wore the same and similar costumes.
We first met John Fox years before Grant Morrison began to jot down the DC 1 Million story. He was introduced in Flash Special #1 (published in 1990) as a scientist who lived in the 27th century. Attempting to travel back in time, he wound up getting speed powers thanks to his exposure to tachyons and became the new Flash. His first costume certainly stands out from those who inspired him. The blue isn’t a whole new element, as it’s a callback to Jay Garrick. But even with Jay, red was the dominant element since it was the shirt and the boots. Here, the blue stands out much more, making this the first Flash we’d met who couldn’t be called a “scarlet speedster.”
My main objection is there’s no real design to it beyond a chest symbol. If you remove the symbol, this guy looks like a generic hero, giving you no clue as to the nature of his abilities or personality. And the loose gloves and shoulder pads seem to diminish the sleekness that I think should mark a person called “Flash.”
When Wally West was temporarily missing, John Fox came to our time-period filled in for him as the Flash, wearing this new outfit. It seems sleeker than his previous look, not counting the “time gauntlets” he wore to allow for travel through the timestream. The circuitry patterns and holographic displays of lightning and mask-wings all shout that this is a character possessing advanced technology. Lightning was Barry and Wally’s main design element, since that was how they got their powers. John Fox is a scientist and got his power through the use of technology. This suit screams that. It says “Flash,” but he no longer looks like a low-grade version of Barry Allen or Wally West
When we met the Justice Legion Alpha, readers were surprised to see John Fox among its ranks. Evidently, John’s time gauntlets eventually took him to the 853rd century and he’d decided to stay there since there was no Flash of that era. He took residence on the planet Mercury (naturally) and got himself another new look.
This outfit is very cool. Interestingly, it actually more closely resembles Wally West’s Kid Flash costume rather than the Barry Allen style uniform. The Kid Flash suit has been considered one of the best designed superhero uniforms by many writers and artists, so it’s definitely a model worth emulating.
With no more circuitry patterns or time gauntlets, John Fox is now as streamlined as Barry Allen and Wally and it looks good on him. The colors are now a traditional Flash scheme and the fact that the suit is encompassed by lightning is a nice nod to the past that also makes this a new, design that stands on its own. Great look.
AQUAMAN – KING OF THE OCEAN PLANET NEPTUNE
Arthur Curry, the original Aquaman, has had a few distinct uniforms. At the time that DC 1 Million was released, this was the look he’d been sporting for a while. A high-tech harpoon to replace his lost hand and body armor to protect the weaponless side of his body. This design was clearly the inspiration for his future successor.
Aquaman’s harpoon and beard aused many fans to comment that he now resembled a pirate. The Aquaman of the 853rd century took this idea a few steps further. He has a fishing net as a sash, wears a bracer, has a strap across his chest that looks like an enormous belt. And rather than a harpoon, he’s holding a ship’s anchor as his weapon. Unlike Arthur Curry, this Aquaman does not look like a man who lives in the sea but is much more a sea creature who has taken on the form of a man. His hands are webbed, his body is covered in scales, and his hair resembles foamy seawater.
The problem is, this is too derivative. “Harpoon” being translated to “anchor” is a fun idea but I also wish this guy had a little more going for him, more to make him different beyond just, “What if Arthur looked a bit more threatening?” Then again, his different array of powers, such as telekinetically manipulating water, definitely reminded us that this was not the Aquaman we were all familiar with.
WONDER WOMAN – GUARDIAN OF PLANET VENUS
Diana of Themyscira, the warrior we know as the modern day Wonder Woman, was a child made from clay and given life by the goddesses of the Greek pantheon. Many of us know the classic Wonder Woman style, even if it’s had many variations over the years. Heck, I wrote a whole column about the history of her fashion choices, in case you missed it. And while she may be wearing different threads at the moment (temporarily), she wore a more traditional look at the time that DC 1 Million came out.
This Wonder Woman of the 853rd century was literally carved from marble and given life by the “Goddess of Truth”, a station that Diana once held, implying that at some point in the future she may assume this role again and eventually create her own successor here. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting twist/revision on the classic origin and gives us a harsher, colder hero. Such an attitude often comes with pragmatism and so we see that this Wonder Woman has no real decoration to her. A star on her shoulder, a pair of bracelets and a tiara. That’s it. And the bracelets aren’t there for tradition or just for defense. Named Harmony and Charity, each is a multipurpose weapon programmed with artificial intelligence.
I like the look of her as a living statue, reminding us that she is a golem (and one could argue that Diana is as well). I also enjoy the winged feet, indicating her connection to the Greek gods. But the rest of this design is a little too simple for me. The only Wonder Woman symbol present is on her shield, a transparent weapon that recalls Diana’s invisible plane. I’d like some kind of eagle on this suit perhaps. Something that makes me think this is Wonder Woman’s uniform and not just one of many outfits or bathing suits that any generic female hero could’ve grabbed from a closet.
BATMAN – WARDEN OF THE PRISON PLANET PLUTO
Like Wonder Woman, Bruce Wayne AKA Batman has worn many variations of the same basic design over the years. This was the outfit he was sporting when DC 1 Million happened. Full bodysuit, no shorts, black over deep gray, yellow stylized bat-symbol, and shoulder hooks on the cape.
Full face masks can be tricky and sometimes very limiting. Here, we can still get expression from the future Batman’s eyes, so it works. It also gives a sense of mystery. That could be ANYONE underneath. He could be young or old. Scarred or bearded. Black, white, Asian, Latino. It might not even be a human being beneath that cowl.
This uniform still says “Batman” and “Dark Knight.” But the bat-wing cape clasp looks slightly too decorative for a dark, sinister avenger. I like this look in general, yet it just doesn’t feel quite right without a utility belt (even if we do see that he uses miniaturized future tech) or a true bat-symbol emblazoned on the chest. Oooh, perhaps a holographic golden bat silhouette projected over the chest could work. Just a thought.
SUPERMAN – EARTH’S GREATEST HERO
Okay, you should seriously already know what this costume looks like. Even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, Clark Kent’s uniform has been seen in every form of media and has been on everything from lunch boxes to water bottles to pajamas to pop art pieces to tattoos on celebrities and athletes to T-shirts worn by people of all ages. That’s not even including all the characters who have parodied him, ripped him off or been created as an homage.
In DC 1 Million, we learned that Superman would eventually father a dynasty of heroes that will last for millennia, starting with Superman Secundus who was a clone of Clark and Lois’s DNA. In the 853rd century, Kal Kent is the latest to wear the name Superman. Armed with abilities such as super-telekinesis, super-ESP and super-hypnotism, able to leap from planet to planet in a single bound, this hero didn’t see the need to drastically alter the design of his famous ancestor, whom he called “the Prime Superman.”
Kal’s chest symbol still gives a subtle indication of the famous S-shield. But it could now work just as easily as an alien symbol rather than something clearly resembling a letter of the English alphabet. It gives a slightly more alien touch to the design.
Extending the shield into the cape works nicely. I was against the regal look for the future Batman, but someone of Superman’s line and following his example is definitely someone who can pull off looking slightly like royalty.
I’m normally not into shorts over trousers for heroes, but here it’s a bit different. The entire suit is made of a sleek, reflective material, so the shorts now seem like a seamless part of the overall design rather than an extra layer of cloth worn for no apparent reason. I also like the sleeves extending into gloves and think such a thing could work well for the modern-day Superman (I know Clark has ways of making sure he doesn’t leave fingerprints behind, but it’s always bothered me that he doesn’t wear gloves). A very cool uniform that is memorable yet simple. You see this guy and there’s no question who he’s supposed to be.
And that wraps it up for now. We shall certainly visit the era of DC 1 Million in another column in the future (see what I did there?). I hope you dug this look at the Justice Legion A and that you all continue to enjoy these columns in the upcoming new year. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.