Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A History of Justice - A Prelude


The Justice Society may have been the first Superhero team, the Fantastic Four may have reinvented the concept, and the X-men may well be the most popular - but the JLA will always be the greatest Superhero team to exist as far as I'm concerned. Because when San Fracisco is in danger you call the Teen Titans, and when the world is in danger you call The Avengers - but when a dark god from the 4th world wins a war in heaven murdering the old gods with a bullet shot backwards through time, enslaving all of humanity within the bounds of the Anti-Life equation and threatening the existence of the entire multiverse, you call the Justice League.

And then they go get coffee. Cause that's what they do.

When at it's best, the JLA is an incredible mix of high concept sci-fi action blockbuster, character soap, and job procedural. These are trained and prossional do-gooders who have dedicated their lives in service of the utterly incredible, and not because they have to, but because 16 of them fighting together is just so much epicly cooler than one. Say what you will about Marvel or DC and where your personal allegiance lies to what storytelling themes and structures work best for you - there's something so inspiring about seeing A-listers like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern together that has led to that specific combination being repeated for now over 50 years - and whether admitted or not, that desire to see the real heavy hitters of a particular company together is what led to the New Avengers a few years ago- with Cap and Tony being joined by Spider-Man and Wolverine.

I grew up reading Justice League comics in my grandparents house that I found in my dad's old room. I learned my morality in no small part to the unending inspiration of Superman, the unyielding determination of Bruce Wayne to become a better man, the possibility for great action to be undertaken simply by willpower and a magic green ring with which to focus it - and above all, that heroes don't kill. They find another way.

I love the X-men too, and maybe just as much. But no one ever seems to question how cool they are. The metaphor of the X-men as people who are feared and persecuted stands out as viable and relevant even at the title's most unreadable times. But the DC heroes have often been thought of as unhip, uncool, passe - and they're NOT. It takes a bit more nuance to get to the heart of the fundamental ideas driving each of these incredible costumes and designs. When done right these are the modern day gods of Olympus dazzling us with feats of incredible courage and heroic parables. They are Hercules and Sampson, idealizations of immigration and truth, personifications of speed and achievement.
They are Justice. And they remain so far past cool that while occasionally they may be refurbished, in the right hands they will never be outdated.

So I'm going to go through every member of the Justice League and explain who they are, what they stand for in a literary or metaphoric sense, and why these characters are so damn cool.


Alison said...

AWESOME. I've been meaning to ask you to explain backstories to me for ages. Now I don't have to.

Jason Heat said...

sweet! now i know at least one person actually wants to read these.

Ozkirbas said...

"And then they go get coffee. Cause that's what they do"

I'm gonna start using that. You can't stop me.

Stephen said...

I've been interested in your interpretations on superheros for a long time and I am definitely looking forward to this series.

Coincidentally I thought this post earlier today when I saw a copy of the Justice League New Frontiers movie at Best Buy.

By the way, that's a movie now?

Jason Heat said...

It is, and it's actually quite good. I own it if you want to borrow it sometime.

David Pratt said...

Other times it is appropriate to call the Justice League:

The primordial destroyer, a god-killing weapon chained inside a gravity well at the edge of the universe, breaks free from its prison and destroys a planet populated entirely by 100-foot tall superheroes before heading for Earth.

An android sun from the 853rd century teams up with an immortal despot, sends its programming back in time, infecting humanity with a techno-organic plague and threatening to destroy two timelines.

Ape-person from another planet says monkeys were supposed to be the dominant species and commits suicide.