Some of this Morrison reading project has been fairly heavy going.  The Filth, The Invisibles, and Seven Soldiers of Victory are meaty lumps of sequential narrative.  On top of that, the modicum of research some of my posts have necessitated has felt a tiny bit like work here and there*.

So I’ve been saving up Morrison’s JLA for when burnout beckons and I need some simple 4-colour superhero fun. 

That moment has arrived! 

JLA was my introduction to the mainstream DCU.  Even though the stories weren’t designed to be read in conjunction with the rest of DC’s output at the time, reading about these central characters each month gave me a good handle on where the DCU was at back then.  I loved this incarnation of the team.  Morrison’s deft handling of these characters in their team book and his portrayal of them as a group bound together by mutual trust and respect allowed them to have a strong presence when they appeared as a team in other books, or when other writers borrowed the reins. 

Because I have a fondness for this period of DCU history, I’ll probably be taking side-trips to appearances of the JLA in other comics during Morrison’s tenure as chief custodian.  Such was my fanboyish enthusiasm for the JLA that I eventually bought many of those appearances, including events like JLApe and Day of Judgement.  These summer crossovers might have been knocked at the time, but they are veritable models of restraint in light of DC’s publishing practices since DiDio took over.

Here is a chronology of Morrison’s JLA and the storylines that intersected with it.  I’ll be using it to decide the reading order and possible side-trips.  Let us know if there are any glaring errors on it.  I’d love to read through every appearance of the JLA during 1996-2000, but unfortunately, most of them are amongst the comics I had to leave behind when I made my big move.  If you would like to chime in with commentary on JLApe, Paradise Lost, Day of Judgement or any of the other stories in the chronology, be my guest.

JLA was stratospherically popular back when it hit the stands, so it’d be good to hear what you all thought of it at the time and how you think it reads now. 

If possible, I’d like for all the early posts to focus on the first 2-3 storylines rather than ranging too far ahead.  Not really for SPOILER reasons, but just to keep the discussion from getting too general.  I don’t think we have to worry about spoiling later developments, though, as most of us have probably read this series already.

Given I’ll be branching out to the work of other writers, it seems right to begin the discussion with Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare, written by Mark Waid and Fabian Niceiza.

*Ironic, given where I wrote most of them…

 

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Yeah, when he first appeared, Banshee wasn't too far removed from this guy. Shocking considering how recent that was.

Which Jack O'Lantern are you referring to? Was he a hero before JLA: Ultramarine Corps? Interesting.

Though it is not as rampant as before there are always bad jokes and stereotypes just waiting to be sprung again.

Tell me about it!

I haven't listened to Celtic Woman yet, but it seems to be a follow-up of sorts to A Woman's Heart which had some of the best female Irish musicians of the early 90s doing their roots thing. You'd probably want to check that out too, Phillip.

If it means anything,

It means that hanging on to some of our culture and identity all these years wasn't just a bloody-minded waste of time... :-)
Banshee certainly wasn't a looker in his early appearances with his pug nose and odd hairstyle. He was portrayed more realistically, though still with hyper-Irish dialect and backstory in Uncanny X-Men.

The first DC Jack O'Lantern was created by E. Nelson Bridwell as part of his international super-heroes that later became the Global Guardians in Super Friends # 7-9 in 1977, the same issues where the Wonder Twins were introduced. His name was Daniel Cormac and he was given a magical lantern that could do almost anything by the Fairy Folk. Its power fluxuated during the day, being strongest at midnight and weakest at noon. He spoke with a LOT of Irish slang, how current or accurate, I can't say!

He was one of the more powerful and popular of these new heroes as he had a couple of solo back-up tales in Super Friends along with the Seraph-Hero of Israel. He was given a sidekick, Fergus, a Fir Dhearga-- a sort of leprachaun- and fought menaces from Irish folklore like Balor of the Blows and Dubh Magus. He appeared in #37 (O'80) and #40 (Ja'81) . He "officially" entered the DCU in DC Comics Presents #46 (Ju'82) as part of Doctor Mist's Global Guardians.

After that, what I can remember, is that he turned against the Justice League when their European branches made the GG unnecessary. He fell in with the Post Crisis Queen Bee and was (I think) controlled by her. I know he was killed and replaced with a more compliant Jack. Which one, if either, is an Ultramarine, you would know more than I.

Celtic Woman has been touring since 2005 with 5 CDs and DVDs to their credit. I got into them with their Christmas special. It was like angels singing. I've seen them three times in concert. They are very talented and very easy on the eyes and ears, especially their enegetic and amazing violin player, Maread. They should be touring Australia soon, if they haven't already.

"And may ye be Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead!"
Interesting - that's a lot more Irish characters than I'd previously been aware of. (As stated earlier, I'd only dipped a toe or two into the DCU before JLA came along.) There's probably still a lot of it I don't know about. Especially the 1975-85 stuff.

Maybe they are more 'Oirish' than Irish in some respects, but I'm fairly sanguine about that. It's good to see the attempt, and more often than not, the creators mean well. Claremont's Banshee turned out to be a gentle cultured fellow who read James Joyce in his downtime.

I only know Jack O'Lantern from the Ultramarine Corps, and I only picked up that he was Irish and had a spiky relationship with his English teammate on my second reading years later! Some things just slip by in a Morrison book if you don't pay attention.

Ironically, Morrison's more nuanced 'realistic' portrayal of Jack, placing him in a certain contemporary context as a reformed Republican terrorist, had the effect of making him more like that guy after all. You can't win, sometimes!

Ah, sure its only a bit a craic!
Well, time to put my feisty little hobby horse back in its stable - it likes to get a canter around every so often.

Time, in fact for...

Zero Hour - Crisis in Time



In which Hal Jordan succeeds in destroying the universe and almost succeeds in remaking it again just the way he’d like it.



I guess this is not the time or place to go into how duff this collected story is. Reading it is a very perturbing, discombobulating experience. A load of people I don't know get together to do stuff I don't really understand and it’s all to bring about a result that I couldn’t really give a toot about.

Zero Hour seems to be composed of one jarring scene after another, often unresolved. Warrior/Arsenal sees his girlfriend die between issues, but forgets his grief when he starts to think that he might be able to get the old Hal back. Who says bromance is dead?

Power Girl is heavily pregnant when she appears in Zero Hour and we get all the drama of, “Why now with the contractions?” and “My god, it’s starting!”, but she and her non-canonical offspring disappear completely just before he/she/it is born!

Although my reply earlier in the thread was maybe a bit too flip, there was of course validity in Chris’s objection that there are aspects of Morrison’s work that his fans see as genius, but which we write off as inane and insular when it appears in other comics. In fact the question did occur to me as I was describing Johns Green Lantern. Ultimately, it is subjective, but in the absence of the seriously long essay that it would take to start to delineate how Morrison gets away with what he does, here's some thoughts on Zero Hour instead...

Zero Hour exhibits a lot of Morrison-esque storytelling: bizarre jumping from story point to story point, sudden appearances of characters we know nothing about, whom we are expected to care for, headwrecking narrative-twisting journeys through time, and the ending and beginnings of whole universes that don’t really feel apocalyptic enough. All these are accusations that could be made against Rock of Ages and Final Crisis in particular.

I do feel there is a difference. Partially it’s to do with the execution. Maybe the drawbacks in the above paragraph are valid storytelling elements rather than criticisms and it depends how it’s played? Morrison does have the ability to delineate a character in just a few lines of dialogue that very few members of this costumed hurdy gurdy display. Green Arrow and Black Canary only had a few scenes together as the universe ended in Final Crisis, but Morrison said so much about their heroism and their relationship in just a few frames. There’s very little of that here, despite the heroes being in equally existential peril.

The other thing is in the purpose this headwrecking style of storytelling is put to. In Rock of Ages and Final Crisis, Morrison had a story to tell, and everything in the story was to create an effect within that story. In the case of Final Crisis, there was actually disappointment among some fans that so little in it actually affected the wider DCU once the dust had settled. Here, the only reason for many of the scenes is external to the story itself. Crossovers like Zero Hour are devised in order to clear up various ‘problems’ with the ongoing universe, introduce new characters or dispose of them, and generally set up a new ‘status quo’. So it’s not 100% focused on bringing us a coherent drama within its pages.

Strangely enough, reading Zero Hour was a not dissimilar experience to reading Final Crisis, with little half-page cameos of obscure heroes and villains amongst other disconcerting elements. However, Final Crisis did attain some kind of coherence by the time it was done. One of the big failings of execution in Zero Hour was that the original JSA get summarily dispatched by some nobody that hardly existed a few pages earlier.

(Extant/Hawk/Monarch if you must know…)

These were the original mystery men! The foundation on which much of the DCU had been built. Sandman, Starman and Hourman are fine characters, but you wouldn’t really guess that from anything they say or do here, and their removal from the board in these circumstances leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. As it happened, DC got rid of them just as a minor but important trend looking back at DC’s history was about to take take off. D’oh! In fact, the Jack Knight Starman makes his first appearance in the DCU in Zero Hour when the original Starman retires.

So the execution and the dramatic purpose of these scenes are some of the reasons Morrison gets away with techniques that seem almost laughable here. The question of what makes Morrison’s efforts work while other seemingly similar efforts fall down may be subjective, but there’s value in pursuing it.

I’m glad I’ve had a look at Zero Hour though. This thread is part of a wider survey of Morrison’s work and Zero Hour seems to be an important reference point for some of his later output. The jarring techniques here and in other company-wide crossovers seem to be deliberately pastiched in Final Crisis. Look at this short sequence that pops up in Zero Hour with absolutely no explanation. The reader is given no clue as to who this guy is, or what his significance is to the wider drama:

Photobucket

That’s a very Final Crisis scene, isn’t it?

(I wonder did Doctor Mist ever visit Germany?)

The other big tie-in with Morrison’s other work is that whereas Final Crisis, with its monitors and red skies and rebooting of the universe, is a follow up of sorts to Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Return of Bruce Wayne has a few links to Zero Hour. Both use time-travelling as a basis of the story, both feature Vanishing Point and Rip Hunter (And Superman and Green Lantern), and both involve a major DC hero somehow causing the end of days by his adventures in time.

So much for Morrison. Next time. I'll get to the point of why I read Zero Hour in the JLA thread specifically.
I was kind of wondering about that.

Speaking for myself (and at the risk of threadjacking this discussion), Zero Hour is one of my favorite crossover series. I saw it as integral to a greater number of ongoing series/characters (JSA, LSH, GL, Hawkman, etc.) than most crossovers are, and better things srung forth from it (Starman, LSH, etc.). I also know from past discussions my opinion is in the minority on this board (or at least it used to be). I'm curious to read your thoughts on how Zero Hour affected the JLA.
My thoughts on Zero Hour: This came out when I was stopped buying comics for a time though I later bought the TPB. Monarch/Extant never made any sense to me. Hank Hall as a time controlling master menace? Why not Clock King or the Creeper? It would have been just as believeable!

The decimation of the Justice Society was tragic yet logical. Their ages just made it unrealistic for ALL of them to still be active. It was still disturbing to see an elderly Flash and Starman. Strangely enough, my local stationary shop carried a select few comics at the time. One was Starman, even starting with #0, so that was helped get back to new comics. On a personal note, I was still upset that they killed off Doctor Mid-Nite, though he had to be in his 70s by then. I was always intrigued by the fact that you could duplicate the last Golden Age JSA roster with the JLA except for him. He stood out to me for some reason.

It was good to see Impulse again though not yet the ADD case he was to become. And such minor stars like Alpha Centurian, Triumph (mark him), Maxima, Agent Liberty, the Despero/L-Ron mix, Donna Troy as Darkstar and the Team Titans.

Seeing all the heroes in the 90s mode (long-haired Superman, armored Booster Gold, volcanic Metamorpho, etc) was a bit jarring. Parallex is still disturbing. And they tried several new ideas but none stuck except for Jack Knight. And let's not forget the success of the new, improved Hawkman!

More interesting is the timeline at the end which superceded the previous Post-Crisis History of the DC Universe. Of note is that they said that the Martian Manhunter didn't go public for twenty-five years, Wonder Woman IS twenty-five years old and the Sea Devils, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Metal Men, Metamorpho, Challengers of the Unknown and Deadman all predated Superman by three to five years! And Plastic Man came after the JLA!
Jeff said I was kind of wondering about that.

Chillax! I’m getting there. When I was looking through my TPBs the other night wondering how to get into this thread, something really struck me about Final Night, that I thought was worth talking about, just from a quick thumb-flick through it. It was clear that it was a sequel to Zero Hour, so I had a quick look at that – nothing more than a thumb-flick too. Then I realised that there were some huge contrasts in the DCU between them – although the difference was only from 1994 to 1996. I’m not really thinking about the continuity and in-universe changes between them, but some kind of sea-change in editorial approach that struck me. The trouble with these discussion board thingies is that even this paragraph takes longer to write than the two thumb-flicks + realisation that it describes.

Anyway, in honour of Zero Hour’s unique narrative style, I have decided to make my argument as scattershot, unfocused and bewildering as possible. (Ahem.)

Jeff: Speaking for myself …Zero Hour is one of my favorite crossover series.

Oops! Well, I could have qualified my opinions with the admission that Zero Hour was published in a certain context, where fans were expected to buy the tie-ins or find out what happened in them. In terms of what it set out to do, I’m sure DC editorial were happy enough with Jurgens’ spadework. I’m sure you weren’t the only fan who enjoyed the event and got caught up in its narrative.

But just as a short cut, I decided to look at it as if it was a single story between two covers, as that's what I purchased and placed on my shelf. As such, I was amused and surprised to find it had many similarities with Final Crisis. As someone who had little knowledge of the DCU between COIE and 1994, it didn’t seem to be very coherent or focused or indeed consequential. There’s nothing in the story itself to make me care about these characters, or what they are trying to do. In fact only Hal seems to have a plan to make the world a better place, and, for very sketchily laid out reasons, the heroes confound him.

In fact his actions here aren’t too far removed from the bloody-minded go-it-alone stunts he gets up to in Johns’ epic! It’s not hard to imagine Johns’ character going down a similar route, opposed by all, if he found himself in a desperate enough dead-end, as Parallex does here.

For someone who was shockingly consigned to the margins by DC, Hal is still quite central to the DCU in the 90's. Day of Judgement occurred in the middle of Morrison’s run. Even though Morrison leaves Hal on the margins of his JLA, his ghost haunts poor Kyle. Just for the hell of it, I’ve decided to look at the contexts JLA was produced in (or at least launched in), so Hal is fair game on this thread, and that’s one of the reasons I thought it worthwhile to look at Zero Hour.

(and at the risk of threadjacking this discussion)

Let’s see: Morrison-hate, Rob’s holidays, Kill Your Boyfriend, Doom Patrol, Zombie infestations, brand propagation, Geoff Johns, some drawing of my Lord and Master ‘flipping the bird’, Midsummer’s Nightmare, Kingdom Come, cultural identity as an issue in superhero comics and, of course, this guy.

I’d say it’s too late for that!

Thanks for the input Phillip. It mentions some things I was planning to expand on later. The fact that someone like you, who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of DC continuity, found parts of this jarring and alienating speaks volumes, as does the fact that you’d dropped DC comics for the period leading up to it.

The decimation of the Justice Society was tragic yet logical.

That’s as may be, but I don’t think Zero Hour was the right place to deal with their decimation, or at least it was handled badly in it. There was too little in the story itself that told me this was the passing of an era, that these guys being wiped out in a few pages was of any consequence. Surely they deserved their own mini-series, which could have been brilliant in the right hands, and potentially could have been a story about generations passing worth having on your shelf. Instead it just looked like DC was embarrassed to have these old fogeys around and just stamped their card, flung the carriage clock at them and told them to enjoy those reruns of Murder She Wrote.
You must remember this was the second time DC tried to eliminate the Justice Society. Roy Thomas himself scripted The Last Days of the Justice Society Special where the JSA replace the Norse Gods in an endless Ragnarokk cycle, supposedly forever. They returned in Armageddon: Inferno and received their own series (for 10 issues). This time they actually killed some of them and aged the rest. Again they were never to be used but Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat reappeared in other titles, just as strong as before. In fact the elder Wesley Dodd and Ted Knight were more prominent now than as active heroes.
But why eliminate them at all? I feel strongly that just because characters don't sell their own books, they can still be great background characters that enrich their fictional world. Like Namor and Amanda Waller. Older characters add to the texture too. Comics companies really should work on having as many of those kinds of characters around as possible. Zero Hour left us with a universe seemingly only inhabited by 20-something superheroes.

Jeff: I'm curious to read your thoughts on how Zero Hour affected the JLA.

The main reason I thought to include Zero Hour in this particular thread is because of the huge contrast between the DCU depicted in its pages, and how the DCU looked 2 years later as JLA got up and running.

Like, I hadn’t a notion who half of these guys are…
Photobucket

(The book is full of frames like this, of the heroes standing around looking pumped, or alternatively running towards the reader for no real reason. I love Kyle’s internal Hamlet moment there. Don’t let the Yankee-Hispano-Celt side down, fella!)

Okay, no doubt some of you could tell me who the big pink guy, that other fellow and the lightning boy are, and what Donna is doing in that god-awful flying-spermatazoa-themed outfit, but where do you start with this:
Photobucket
(I know Blue Beetle takes his schtick from a bug, but is he really only 4.5 feet tall?)

My point here is that this looks to me like the endpoint of a certain direction DC had been taking since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Each of the stories they were telling were allowed to branch out and bring in new characters and develop old ones in weird directions. Maybe I’ve argued elsewhere for growth in comics universes along these lines, but the endpoint here, if this story is anything to go on, is a vast array of heroes that don’t seem to stand for anything or have any resonance beyond being just pieces on DC’s board. Of the ones that are eventually named in passing, what’s The Ray about? Or Triumph? Or Green Dragon?

The last time we mentioned Morrison’s JLA in any depth on the old board, Doc Beechler made the point that Morrison had designated each of the heroes a place in a pantheon that corresponded to Classical Greek mythology. Superman = Apollo, Batman = Hades, Flash = Hermes and so on. At the time, I thought it sounded typically pretentious (on Morrison’s part, not Doc’s!) It seemed too arbitrary, and a kind of pointless showing off.

But on reflection, it’s a practical thing for a teller of a new mythology to do. Those roles developed over centuries of storytelling, when the characters’ roles became pared away to their most important and resonant form. All the attributes of light and benevolence went to Apollo, all the darkness and secrecy and awareness of mortality went to Hades, and so on. It means the characters have a universal significance and their place in each story is very clear-cut. They act out impulses and states of thought that are profoundly significant to each of us. Morrison is only harnessing what’s already been tried and tested to make the DCU’s heroes more defined and more ‘pure’.

The characters in Zero Hour tend to just blur into one another. They all have rather extraordinary 90s clobber and feathered hairdos, but along the way someone has lost sight of how superheroes actually work. Think of the symbolism and ideology that all the classic superheroes evince. They act out particular roles that strike a chord to some degree in everyone. None of the heroes here display any of that. Superman, as often happens, is in this story to get suckerpunched in order to show how [gasp] terrible this new villain is.

The Justice League, as a team, seems completely absent from Zero Hour, even though plenty of one-time members abound. Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman get somewhat lost in the crowd in the story. Even though they do have a few moments each, they don’t really shine at all.

By the time Final Night comes around 2 years later, it’s obvious DC has totally refocused on the core heroes again, or, in the case of Wally and Kyle, the brands. That’s an interesting shift.

This is all historical, and a fictional universe of separate ongoing adventures is going to get diffuse and unfocused as the years go by. And I’m not really blaming DC for keeping the show on the road between 1986 and 1994. They successfully kept on selling comicbooks. I would lay the charge at their door that they did very little to make their comics more accessible or desirable to non-readers. I myself was very open to the idea of reading DCU stories after Alan Moore’s ‘gateway’ stories, and Byrne’s Man of Steel and even the Death of Superman, but in the end it all just seemed like a club that didn’t want me. Further, I had many friends that loved borrowing Morrison’s JLA, but found stories of DC’s central narrative, of which Zero Hour is a prime example, quite off-putting.

JLA had characters they were familiar with and that they cared a little about once the cosmic $%&@ started to hit the fan.
Philip Portelli said:
You must remember this was the second time DC tried to eliminate the Justice Society. Roy Thomas himself scripted The Last Days of the Justice Society Special where the JSA replace the Norse Gods in an endless Ragnarokk cycle, supposedly forever. They returned in Armageddon: Inferno and received their own series (for 10 issues). This time they actually killed some of them and aged the rest. Again they were never to be used but Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat reappeared in other titles, just as strong as before. In fact the elder Wesley Dodd and Ted Knight were more prominent now than as active heroes.

I always had very strong mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I loved those old Golden Age characters, and didn't want to see them disappear from continuity. On the other hand, since they were tied to the Second World War Era, as time went on, it became harder and harder to justify most of them being still active, or even alive. Some you could get away with - Alan Scott has a magic ring, for all we know, he could use it to make himself immortal. But the ones who were just tough guys in bondage outifts were harder to believe. (I seem to recall a story where the JSAers and their wives all were given an infusion of temporal energy to explain why they looked much younger than they ought to.) If you think about it, when the JSAers were brought back in the Silver Age, they'd only been gone a little over ten years. But because the JSA was tied to the War, when the League's origin kept moving forward in time, the JSA wasn't able to "keep pace". (If they had, the JSA would be the heroes of the late 80's and early 90's by now!). As a consequence, the Golden Agers should really be in their late 80's and early 90's! So, I can see why they might have felt a need to "clear out some of the dead wood" - but I also think that they should've been givne a better send-off!
Figserello said:
I love Kyle’s internal Hamlet moment there. Don’t let the Yankee-Hispano-Celt side down, fella.


Kyle, twenty minutes hard thinking later: "I like eggs."
I seem to recall a story where the JSAers and their wives all were given an infusion of temporal energy to explain why they looked much younger than they ought to.

This is a perfectly 'realistic' solution in a story set in a comicbook universe.

But I don't mind them being old and infirm, either, if not tottering about in their S&M suits. Zero Hour did leave some of them dead, some very old, and some still young, so there is pathos and storytelling possibilities in that. It wasn't as if they were all executed by editorial fiat. Still, they deserved a better story in which time catches up with them.

The Ostrander Spectre and Robinson's Sandman series showed how they could be well used. Before Robinson's life was taken over by a changeling.

Oh, there is a Green Lantern moment where Alan Scott hands over his ring to Kyle, and declares Mr Raynor to be now the only GL. It seemed a bit ham-fisted to me. Kyle doesn't do a great job of guarding Alan's utterly precious heirloom from the dawn of the age of heroes, as Hal crushes it beneath his boot later on. (Or Parallex does, if you must.)

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