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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I originally posted in response to KS that it might be Starfire wearing a costume she adopted in or after the Final Night preview, but rereading the thread I worked out the two-page spread is also from Zero Hour, and not Final Night as I thought. I still think it's Starfire, KS. I can't find an image of Starfire where she's clearly shown wearing that costume, but it might be the same as the one she's wearing on the cover of Darkstars #26. Conversely, in every image I've found of Rampage she has a mohawk and bare arms. Her arms should also be more muscular than the disputed lady's.
From what I can tell DC wasn't using Captain Marvel, Jr. when Zero Hour came out. My best guess is the figure behind Superboy is (the Matrix version of) Supergirl, but if so the gold streak seems to be a colouring mistake.

Batgirl's presence might be a joke, unless the plot of Zero Hour justifies it somehow.
Batgirl wasn't a joke but taken from an earlier time. And she does have a significant part to play.

Rampage dosn't fly so I still think it's Starfire having a bad hair day and in a bad mood!

Dangnabit!! I thought it could have been Gunfire but I didn't think the New Blood heroes were around yet so I went with Arsenal. My apologies!

Gunfire!!! Stop or I'll shoot you with the brick or soda can or toaster!
I'll be moving on to Final Night soon, but before we leave Zero Hour behind...

Luke said I agree with you about big crossovers reducing characters to figures on a chessboard.

My point was that Zero Hour was representative of the whole DCU in the first half of the 90s: Filled with unremarkable, often unappealing, often violence-prone (Gunfire? I ask you!) blah characters that unsurprisingly have never had a big impact beyond their hey day. Obviously they have some fans here, but it seems I'm not alone in this view. Kingdom Come basically dramatised how such later generation 'heroes' had taken over the DCU, and showed how they needed the old guard to return and show them how real heroes acted. Kingdom Come in turn found a huge audience for whom the premise struck a chord.

They are very different, but Kingdom Come and JLA had similar underlying philosophies about how superhero stories were supposed to work, and came out about the same time.

Philip, I don't mean to sound picky* here, but I genuinely would like to hear your views. As ever you are great on the micro stuff. On the macro level, did you notice that the plot turns on characters being able to travel willy nilly through time and change whatever they pleased no matter how paradoxical that might be? (Check out the Dr Mist scene I posted earlier for the kind of thing that I mean.) This story was several years before New Year's Evil: Gog, which you've argued was an impossible story under the time-travel 'rules' of the DCU**. Also did you notice that Parallex wiped out the DCU and started it over again slightly differently so that the gigabytes of data longtime fans of the DCU had collected (and indeed any 'rules' that previously held) didn't necessarily have currency in the new universe?

Come to that, you must really resent reboots for nullifying all the fictional biographical data that you are so impressively, mind-bogglingly good at retaining***?

* genuinely not trying to get at you here. I really enjoy your posts and all. These are genuine questions.

** I'd argue that it was simply an awful story under the uncodified rules of maintaining a fictional superhero universe and the rules prohibiting the mistreatment of widely admired, culturally resonant hero-figures. It was also an assault on decency in general. Phooo-eee!

*** It occurs to me that maybe I'm so sanguine about all these neverending reboots because I'm terrible at retaining information at the best of times, so any excuse to forget a load of stuff I couldn't remember in the first place is fine with me.

Figs wrote:

*** It occurs to me that maybe I'm so sanguine about all these neverending reboots because I'm terrible at retaining information at the best of times, so any excuse to forget a load of stuff I couldn't remember in the first place is fine with me.

Huh. I hadn't considered that, but that's a good an explanation as any as for why I'm in that same boat!

Luke Blanchard said:
I originally posted in response to KS that it might be Starfire wearing a costume she adopted in or after the Final Night preview, but rereading the thread I worked out the two-page spread is also from Zero Hour, and not Final Night as I thought. I still think it's Starfire, KS. I can't find an image of Starfire where she's clearly shown wearing that costume, but it might be the same as the one she's wearing on the cover of Darkstars #26. Conversely, in every image I've found of Rampage she has a mohawk and bare arms. Her arms should also be more muscular than the disputed lady's.

You're probably right, Luke. Although I have absolutely no memory of Starfire wearing a costume like that.
I kind of remember it -- it's from the years of Titans when I'd stopped reading it, though. Sometime during/after the Grummett run on the art?
She'd just been written out of New Titans c.#114 as part of a radical cast makeover. The covers to #109, #112 have her in an even more revealing costume than her original one, but her hairstyle on #112 could be the same as that in the Zero Hour spread. (On the Darkstars cover she seems to have her old hair.) Earlier she apparently wore a different costume again at least sometimes in the period from around #88, which might be the one you're remembering, Rob.

(corrected)
Sorry this took so long! Crazy work schedule!

Zero Hour redoing DC's reality didn't upset me as much as Crisis did, but I was older then and getting use to it. Some great series like Starman, Hourmanand even JLA came out of it. I don't demand that all stories adhere to the past continuity, I just want a little respect for them. Look, they can reboot, revise, recreate, restart, reimagine, reheat, replace, revolt, relive, relapse and re-reboot their fictional reality as much or as often as they like. I feel that I have the option of believing what I want.

Superman was never Superboy? Wonder Woman never was in the JLA at the start? Martian Manhunter never left Earth? Hal Jordan becomes a villain? Hey, whatever floats their boat. If they can tell good stories, fine. I enjoyed Post-Crisis comics and Zero-Earth comics and Post Final Crisis comics. I just love my 70s and early 80s comics more!

Again they can alter history, facts and backstories to suit their dramatic needs. It's unfortunate that they have to do it so often. I genuinely feel sorry for any 10 year old wanting to get into comics and not just for the expense. For my part, I will continue to read "modern" comics and there are many that I like.

I guess to answer one of your questions, Figs (if I may), using this example, they can say Superman had no career as Superboy but I know better. Silver Age, Bronze Age, 70s comics, whatever you call them, that's my prime comic-book reality. To me that will never change. Everything else is variations on a theme!
You're right, Luke -- I was thinking of the costume circa 88, which is right before I dropped the book. (For reasons unrelated to the amount of skin Starfire was showing, I assure you.)
Thanks for your response, Philip.

For my part, I read these stories ‘as stories’. I try to see if the writer has anything to say about life as we know it, and if so, how successful he/she is at getting that across. I try to see how things within the story reflect and comment on other aspects of the story, and on what I already know about our crazy world. I judge them on theme, tone and characterisation, as well as execution in terms of plotting, dialogue and art.

I try to see how the story stands up on its own two legs, rather than picking little details that aren’t really connected to the central spine of the story in hand, and further, can’t really be addressed by the writer in this story. (eg Jurgens can’t make Superman a former member of the Legion in the story he’s telling, unless he makes Zero Hour a completely different story, which would take the DCU off in a completely new direction.)

In terms of the story in hand, the ‘little details’ approach seems to risk missing the forest for the trees…

On just about all of the criteria above, Final Night scores a knockout victory over Zero Hour, in my opinion. Superhero stories can be well done or not, on their own terms, and we are doing a disservice to the good ones if we can’t judge each on its merits. Maybe society at large judges these stories as insular kitsch pop culture pap, but I don’t, and I like to see them appreciated as a bit more than that. If the stories are only about earlier stories, then they are about nothing much, really.

Of course most things in the story need to be in accord with what I already know about these characters and their histories. No story is good enough to justify Superman being portrayed as a vicious sadist or a trembling coward. Further, reading Zero Hour and Final Night in such close proximity, I have to admire how they in turn are only intermediate chapters in a much bigger mega-story, encompassing the whole DCU, about the fall and rise of Hal Jordan. Because they are obviously meant to be read as parts of one story, well, now I’m going to be looking to see how consistent they are with one another. (Impressively so, I’d say, given that they were done years apart by two different creative teams, in different editorial contexts, and each tying in with dozens of different books, too.)

I can’t dictate how anyone reads these comics, nor would I want to, but I’m just trying to explain why I get frustrated with the micro-continuity approach sometimes.

Having said all that, it’s impossible to read these crossovers without wondering who’s that guy, what stage of their development is this other guy in and what’s with all the tragic mullets? I do enjoy picking up info like that on this board.

Speaking of which, did L-Ron happen to be a member of a dangerous cult an unorthodox belief system? Where is he now? Has he been whisked off to a re-education camp in the meantime?
All I remember about L-Ron is that Despero retook his body. Hopefully some one else knows more.

Life, as they say, are in the details. The epic scale and the breadth of the Earth-One Superman may have been cluttered or confusing to a first-time reader but I think that they picked things up as they read more. My first World's Finest featured the Super-Sons and I figured that one out (eventually and with much psychiactric help). Writers in the 70s picked and choosed what elements of the Superman mythos that they wanted to focus on. Good stories make use of these facts and facets, either as starting off points or ways to improve on them. Not all good stories, of course, need to use past continuity but look at these examples: the Kree-Skrull War, the JLA/JSA team-ups, the Celestial Madonna, the New Teen Titans, the Great Darkness Saga, Simonson's Thor, even the Gauntlet and the Winter Soldier. All were sparked by past stories yet given new twists and meanings.

Yes, I love the trivia and the factoids. Yes, I am a geek for the Marvel Handbooks and Official Index. Yes, I could name the Legionnaires' real names and home worlds. (I won't but I could!) But I want good stories to acknowledge basic events. If Doctor Von Mean Guy "died" in Jolly Good Fellow #46, only to return in Fair Weather Friends #78, I would like there to be SOME explaination, not just pretend it didn't happen. Really I mean, some of you (definitely not me) are tech-savvy enough to create a site that lists when a particular hero or villain is killed off, why can't DC or Marvel? I'm not saying "Dead Is Dead" but try to have it make sense!

The Post-Crisis Superman was supposed to revitalize the Man of Steel by ridding him of the myriad of themes, plots and baggage that were loaded on him. He would be the Last Son of Krypton, pure and refreshed. Unfortunately without all that "baggage", he was just another super-hero. And they were trying to build a new legacy on a weak foundation, not just with him but most of the heroes.

Now everything seems to be started up again. The reset button has been pushed AGAIN. Wonder Woman is back as a contemporary to Superman, Batman, the Barry Flash, etc, beginning her career with their's. Since that is opposite everything her Post-Crisis status was, is this Wonder Woman IV or even V?

Nit-picking, continuity freak, trivia collector, a good story should make sense, internally. A good series needs the details to give it something for new stories to latch on to!

PS: I don't have Final Night collected, so I will have to hope your commentary jogs my memory!

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