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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Given that a lot of the issue is taken up with the interviews etc, Tomorrow Woman’s brief arc is even less than an issue, so we are left with the bare bones of a modern fable about a mere machine that makes the incredible journey from automaton to a thinking, morally-focussed, self-directed ‘person’, capable of sacrificing herself for the good of those she’d grown to love and admire.

This is one of those bits that I love about this issue. It is very Silver Age-y to get all of this done in one issue. It was had to conceive of when it happened, and damn near impossible to think that it would take no less than 6 issue to tell the same story now. Gotta have it fit the trade don't cha know.

 

All she did was periodically return to a dingy old shed where the Professors switched her to ‘standby’ mode.

This is  what really made me feel for her character.

If  I remember and/or feel like it, I'll swing by my storage area and pick up my issues of JLA. Almost all of them I have are in one box (Those that aren't I'll just skip)

It's tough to say what goes on between the panels, Figs. You'd expect an elite organization like the JLA to have a sophisticated and rigorous tryout, and maybe they do, and maybe Ivo & Morrow's work is so sophisticated -- too sophisticated for Ivo's liking, it turns out -- that it passes muster. That's totally plausible, from the facts we know about the people involved.

Then again, these same people just let Damage and Tommy freaking Monaghan up to their moon base, so from the evidence we see in this issue, it's equally likely they're just winging it.

But believing that they'd let Tomorrow Woman join the JLA is the price of admission, like I said -- it doesn't matter how they get to point A to point B, when Morrison is really only concerned with getting from B to C. And however lax the JLA's standards of admission are, they don't hold a candle to the Legion's. ("Meet your new teammate, Nemesis Kid!")
Or Command Kid who had an evil sneer all the time or Dynamo Boy who didn't even have a super-power. At least Nemesis Kid was subtle.

Throughout the League's history, we never saw the entire membership procedure from start to finish. We saw snippets of discussions, at best. True, the JLA usually wanted a new hero to gain a good reputation before being asked to join. The applicants appear to have been invited for interviews. So nominations are important, too. Could her creators have had Tomorrow Woman active where a JLAer could see her and be impressed? She couldn't have just walked in to apply on a whim!

(BTW, who nominated Tommy freaking Monaghan???)

So I agree that she was made a member quickly. We see no interview or background check. We never see her and Batman together. Perhaps he was that busy and may have had reservations or suspicions. But then, he wouldn't be Batman if he didn't. But I also agree that it does not matter. The Justice League meets Tomorrow Woman, are impressed and make her a member. Yes, they are fooled, deceived and hoodwinked. It has happened before and will again. The important crux is that Tomorrow Woman, like her "brother" the Red Tornado, became more than her function. She evolved to experience a feeling that she does not know the definition of.

Small points: When I first read this, I thought, "Another one-issue member! The JLA seems to collect them!"

I'm going to assume that this JLA is seperate from the previous ones since past membership does not seem to apply as noted by Guy Gardner actually having to be nominated again!

While she was in standby mode, her expression changed and there was a glow that went from red to green. Is there a reason for that? Did Morrow give her a subconscious reason to rebel? So he doesn't want to destroy the JLA or would that have been a nice consolation prize?
I think the change in lights & expression was just a reflection of her going into standby mode -- like the different colored lights on a computer's on button. I don't think anything else was happening to her, then.
I have several the #1,000,000 issues, but not that particular one.

Jeff, although every DCU title jumped to the One Millionth issue during that event, there was also a central 4-issue weekly mini-series too, written by Morrison and drawn by Semieks. In some ways it foreshadows All-Star Superman, and the climax was one of a handful of books from this time that allowed me to finally ‘get’ Superman as a character. The whole thing is a lot of fun, and is one of the few comics series I read as an adult that made me feel like a 10 year-old reader again. If you don’t already have the TPB, you could do a lot worse.

Now it’s “Time, Man”, for more “Tomorrow Woman”.

GirlFrenzy! - Tomorrow Woman

Writer: Tom Peyer. Artist Yanick Paquette.

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Or: “Tom Peyer Doesn’t Get It...”


Image from www.comicvine.com

I get the feeling Tomorrow Woman was a big hit with JLA fans in 1997. It might explain why she got her own one-shot in June 1998, a year after her one-issue appearance in JLA #5. Her brief tenure had been affecting and thought-provoking, and, as we’ve discussed, short on many pertinent details of her brief existence. She definitely left the readers wanting more. No bad thing...

I sometimes think, however, that fans can confuse a good story with a good character. Everything that was good about Tomorrow Woman was contained in that short issue, and depended on the context of that story. Before her final sacrifice, I think it was pretty clear that her ‘relationship’ with the JLA consisted of her responding in the correct pre-programmed way to their actions and conversations, so that they believed she was a real person. She only became a real person, finally, when she over-rode her programming and sacrificed herself for them.

Peyer, however presents us with a confused ‘young woman’ who believes she is evil, and is full of self-disgust that people don’t see past her fair appearance and good deeds and see how unworthy and disgusting she really is. She wants to “laugh in Superman’s face” when he praises her contribution, and in distress asks her creators to allow her to blow up and destroy the JLA sooner than they would wish. Her thoughts and feelings are shrill and highly emotion-driven.

Morrison had indicated what his TW was about by naming the ‘villain’ the “Implicate Field”. His story dramatised how her morality and ‘personhood’ arose out of the complexity of her programming. Peyer creates another threat in parallel with that adventure for Tomorrow Woman to face. Peyer's threat highlights what he is doing with her. Peyer's threat is called ‘Taint’, you see, like our self-pityng heroine is tainted. :-(


Taint is an armoured alien, here on behalf of a distant alien empire called the Sole Jurisdiction. On arrival ten years ago, his craft emitted a radiation burst which caused all unborn children to be affected so that they would all be activated as a murderous little army exactly a decade later, during Tomorrow Woman’s brief life.

Peyer’s Tomorrow Woman is a hackneyed self-loathing 90’s Emo girl, and in true Emo fashion, the children are a nasty disappointment to the parents. Tomorrow Woman projects her own self-loathing onto them and perceives their minds as ‘sugar-coated rot’. She identifies with them, as she is also a destructive time-bomb about to turn on those she loves. Added to all these poisoned and betrayed parent-child relationships, Tomorrow Woman’s ‘parents’, the crazy scientists, mistreat her and are continually drunk. The JLA’s relationship to her is the Emo flip side of this. They are like good, approving parents who can’t see that she is broken inside and a worthless creature. All very hackneyed 90’s Emo, or what?

(Sorry to keep using the term Emo, but I can't think of any good enough synonyms that hit the nail so exactly on the head!)

In the end Peyer's tale turns on the very old superhero comics trope of a Bad Girl becoming a good person at the last minute, but paying the price for her sins, which wasn’t what Grant’s character/story was about at all. And even if we allow that Grant's Tomorrow Woman really understood what she was created to do and knew that it was wrong, this whining self-pitying Tomorrow Teen isn't the self-effacing muted character that made such a big impact with such a short appearance in 1997.

Sadly, a missed opportunity. I have had this comic for a while and as a JLA story I had missed first time around, I was really looking forward to reading it. As you might be able to tell, this was something of a disappointment.

Paquette’s art is very mid-90’s DC too, but good enough, for all that. The difference between this and his work on Bulleteer in 2004 is immense, and his work on the Blackbeard Return of Bruce Wayne issue was a further quantum leap.
I haven't reread Girlfrenzy yet, so I'll hold off on comments there. But I wanted to point out another way Morrison identifies Wally with the reader. In his fight with Zum, Wally drops some science knowledge on us, and explains that Barry used to teach him things like that all the time, calling them "Flash Facts." Of course, up until then, Flash Facts were simply scientific elements of the Flash comics themselves, not something that Barry told Wally, but something the comic taught the reader. So it's immensely satisfying to see Wally put these facts into use, since it elevates our position as readers into his, as a participant.

I think Morrison was the first to treat "Flash Facts" as if they were part of Barry teaching Wally. Anyone know of an earlier instance?
Jeff, although every DCU title jumped to the One Millionth issue during that event, there was also a central 4-issue weekly mini-series too, written by Morrison and drawn by Semieks.

Hmm. I was either unaware of that or had forgotten. In either case, I don't have it. Will keep it in mind.

I think Morrison was the first to treat "Flash Facts" as if they were part of Barry teaching Wally. Anyone know of an earlier instance?

I don't know for certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Waid did somthing along those lines.

Most of my fifth-week books are together in the same box, but the various "Girlfrenzy" one-shots are spread among various boxes with their "parent" titles. (Just in case anyone was wondering. ;) )
If anyone else did it, it'd be him. And if he did it anywhere, it would probably be in his "Born to Run" debut retelling of Wally's origin.
I've read the Tomorrow Woman story, figs, and I agree with you on every count. Of course, Peyer was probably tasked with a nearly impossible job: write a story from Tomorrow Woman's point of view. DC wanted the JLA to participate in the Girlfrenzy event, and aside from Wonder Woman (who already had her own book) there weren't a lot of places to go. (Even with the later Leaguers, the three new women were Oracle, Huntress and Barda: two characters who would seem like more of a Batman/Birds of Prey book, and one who could seem like JLA, but had stronger ties to other characters. I could see the powers that be thinking Tomorrow Woman was probably the right way to go -- especially since her issue was so well received.

One thing I'd add, though, is to this statement:

I sometimes think, however, that fans can confuse a good story with a good character.

More than fans, first of all. Creators do the same thing.

And second, I'd argue that it was a good story plus Howard Porter's excellent character design that made her so popular. She could have been given generic super-clothes to wear, but that gold ribbing, that star-shaped birthmark, and especially that see-through skirt made her much more distinctive and popular.

I didn't care for Porter's art when I originally read this series. Now, though. I'm loving every panel.
Of course, Peyer was probably tasked with a nearly impossible job

True that…. Regarding the other candidates: it’s possible that the Bat editorial office at the time (Denny O’Neill?) wanted to minimise references to the JLA in Gotham-set comics, as it worked against the noir street-level ethos of those stories, so perhaps there was resistance to producing a standalone Oracle or Huntress JLA-focused tale. Apropos of that, I think Morrison was being deliberately naughty, going out of his way to show Superman popping into the Batcave “just to use the JLA teleporter.” The teleporter was a particularly sore point with the Bat-office, as it could have been used to simplify a lot of the problems that made for drama in the Bat-comics.

A Barda one-shot should have been a good idea. There was a little fan resistance to her joining, so it could have ‘normalised’ her somewhat, and then she was under-used as a member, so it could have shown her in action as a Leaguer too.

Tomorrow Woman does have a unique look. Her design might be a deliberate effort to produce something that two socially-challenged, hyper-intelligent nerds with minimum interest in fashion and maximum interest in futurology might come up with. Her hairstyle is unusual. IIt's easy to imagine it illustrates some classic problem of the physics of weight distribution, or perhaps flow dynamics, in some way that applied mathematicians would find hilarious.

Paquette draws a more conventionally ‘attractive’ hairdo. He doesn't get it either...

A subtext of the story is the representation of who these mad professors are and what role they play in the DCU. In ‘Grim’n’Gritty’ stories, evil professors murder people to acquire power and wealth. Morrison however, goes back and looks at the behaviour of people like Ivo and Morrow over all the decades and sees different motivations at work. Largely they are motivated by the challenge of pitching their brains against the power of the world’s greatest heroes, and in showing their superiority to their mad scientist peers. Our two professors here toast each other when the JLA arrive to cart them off to prison. For one thing no-one would know how clever their schemes were without their day in open court!

They obviously work on a completely different level to the rest of us. No doubt acquiring boring old ‘power and wealth’ is something they could do in their sleep, and doesn’t interest them. It’s more of a rush to play high stakes cat-and-mouse with superheroes. Prison is probably where they do their best thinking, getting some peace, and the 3 square meals a day that they find it irksome to bother about on the outside.

A parallel in the real world are computer hackers who get little reward, but love the challenge of pitting their wits against scary big insititutions like the US Dept of Defence and ah, Microsoft.

Again it’s a kind of reverse ‘realism’. Not ‘how would these characters behave in our world’, but given the DCU is as it is, ‘how do they behave in the context of that world?’

Morrison would return to the hyper-competive (and fun) world of DCU Mensa heads with his strand of 52 , showing the mad scientists working together on the island.

Just a question: Is Professor Ivo some kind of pun or joke name? It sounds like it should be, but if so, I can't figure it out...
Ivo's name is part of the grand tradition of JLA foes' names ending in "O": Starro, Amazo, Despero and Kanjar Ro.

I think that Morrison loves creating these one-shot or side characters for his story-telling needs, then has no use for them anymore. Then because they are attached to a hit series, they are revived by other writers without his consent. The results are usually disappointing.

True that…. Regarding the other candidates: it’s possible that the Bat editorial office at the time (Denny O’Neill?) wanted to minimise references to the JLA in Gotham-set comics, as it worked against the noir street-level ethos of those stories, so perhaps there was resistance to producing a standalone Oracle or Huntress JLA-focused tale.

 

Also it should be noted that at this time the Bat-books were dealing with the earthquake in Gotham City, so that may have played a role. Obviously, I wouldn't know for sure.

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