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 confess I didn't understand Morrison's Doom Patrol much. I do remember one scene where The Brain "confronts" the removed gray matter of Robotman so they can "battle" one on one! And that he ret-conned Celsius from the Chief's ret-conned wife to a mentally disturbed woman who thought she was the Chief's ret-conned wife!

My feelings about "Midsummer's" was to emphasize that the Big 7 were destined for great things and get readers into the idea of them being a team. It was my first real experience with Kyle Raynor. It made it seem like "Green Lantern" was the member and it wasn't important who he actually was!
I guess he figured if he didn't understand it, it must be good!

There's actually a grain of sense in this attitude. Why only read things that reiterate or confirm what you already believe or understand? I love the feeling that I'm in the hands of a writer who has something to tell me that I've never considered before.

I think I have tried to explicit a lot of what Morrison was doing in my posts of his first two Doom Patrol collected volumes. I've done the hard yards now, so you don't have to! If anyone is rereading it, they can go back to those posts and hopefully see that there are patterns in and indeed a method to the apparent madness of Morrison's Doom Patrol.

I confess I didn't understand Morrison's Doom Patrol much. Photobucket

I do remember one scene where The Brain "confronts" the removed gray matter of Robotman so they can "battle" one on one!

That would be one of the funniest comics I've ever read.

“Oh, Mallah!”

“Oh, Master!”

Good times.

And that he ret-conned Celsius from the Chief's ret-conned wife to a mentally disturbed woman who thought she was the Chief's ret-conned wife!

All the hashing they've done since Morrison's run has probably done it a favour. His run now stands as its own thing. An off-beat superhero story with a beginning, middle, some padding, and end.

A disturbed woman who'd managed to delude herself that she was someone's wife fits right into the tone of what the series was doing.

I've said it before, but we're in a new phase of superhero narratives now. Where things fit into continuity - great! Where they don't - who cares? They'll redo it back again shortly, or sideways, or something. Writers are much more insistent now on only using properties that already exist, so they have to keep resetting and rebooting and retconning the same characters.

How many new characters have Geoff Johns and Bendis created in the last 6 years? You could count them all on one hand. Note Bendis was determined at first that his one major new character - Jessica Jones, should just be Spider-Woman with a sore head.

The writers keep subconsciously coming back to the restrictions of working with the same tired properties over and over, making them get up and shamble around yet again for us.

That's what the Marvel Zombies books are about, that's what Blackest Night was about, that's what the endlessly tweaked and varied Skrull variations and the Skrull substitutes of the heroes were about in Secret Invasion, that's what Osbourn's dark substitutes were about in Dark Reign.

We're a long way from the prodigious wealth of new characters (and sentient dimension-hopping LBGT streets) Grant's Doom Patrol presented us with during its run. I think something's got to give...
Figserello said:
We're a long way from the prodigious wealth of new characters (and sentient dimension-hopping LBGT streets) Grant's Doom Patrol presented us with during its run. I think something's got to give...

I think it's the whole "why create characters I can't have any real ownership of" attitude. Although now that I think on it for a second....

This isn't necessarily in the last six years, but if you'll allow me, say, ten, Bendis has created Kong (from Ultimate Spider-Man), Maria Hill and Victoria Hand, Jessica Jones (although, as you point out, that gets an asterisk), Ronin (which also gets an asterisk), Layla Miller (although Peter David really did all the heavy lifting building that character), Milla Donovan, the Secret Warriors, Anglea del Toro (the current White Tiger).... and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

(I'm sure it's possible for someone to do a similar list with Geoff Johns, but the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Courtney Whitmore and Saint Walker the Blue Lantern....oh yeah, and that evil cat Red Lantern....)

Which has probably gone far enough off topic. Back to your regularly-scheduled discussion. :)
I think it's the whole "why create characters I can't have any real ownership of" attitude.

Agreed 100%!

Bendis has created Kong (from Ultimate Spider-Man), Maria Hill and Victoria Hand, Jessica Jones (although, as you point out, that gets an asterisk), Ronin (which also gets an asterisk), Layla Miller (although Peter David really did all the heavy lifting building that character), Milla Donovan, the Secret Warriors, Anglea del Toro (the current White Tiger)

Fair enough. But look closer. I'm tempted to say Ultimate characters don't count because that whole line is a redo of older Marvel comics. Anyone with the adjective 'current' doesn't count, nor does anyone with the word Lantern in their name. Those are deliberate attempts to rejig a concept that's already in the toybox.

In any case, I think the main Red Lantern first appeared in Moore's little Kevin O'Neill drawn 'Tale' that Johns has been mining so fruitfully for his entire run. Larfleeze seems to be the only fully fledged superhero/villain that Johns has created that I've encountered so far in my reading of his run, and even he gets the asterisk for being a Lantern.

To be fair, creators are to be praised for how ingeniously they adapt existing concepts in all kinds of ways, to get around the 'restriction'. They Young Avengers felt very fresh when they arrived, but each of them are studied adaptions of other Marvel properties, perhaps excepting Wiccan, but now it seems even he was actually created back in the 90's.

My statement was a bit sweeping, but there's a truth in it.

Certainly the reason we get so much dispairing commentary of the "they are ravaging my childhood!!!" variety around here is because of endless recycling of the same properties.

Which has probably gone far enough off topic.

Grist to the mill!

All of this is certainly part of the context JLA was written in. There are instances where Grant was restricted in his use of properties he'd created for Doom Patrol and then couldn't use in his creator owned work. (Crazy Jane becoming an Invisible might be one example) By the time of JLA Grant concentrated largely on reusing Silver Age properties, and there is nothing like the headwrecking profusion of new characters and concepts that he introduced in Doom Patrol.

The whole point of his current Batman run is that practically everything is already in the toybox. Even his biggest innovation, Batson Damien, was conceived in an old Mike W Barr comic (sort of). JLA fits very much in the middle of the spectrum between his Doom Patrol and his Batman.

I'm sure Morrison's output of the last few decades would look very different if somehow DC's practices didn't encourage the wholesale recycling of old concepts and properties, and discourage the use of strong original concepts in mainstream books. As it is, that state of affairs is practically a subtext of Seven Soldiers of Victory, for instance.
Jeff Johns has created several whole Corps of characters, just in the GL books alone.

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But those are just variations on the Green Lantern theme, which might I add, got REALLY repetitive after a while. What's next, Brown Lanterns, Grey Lanterns, Maroon Lanterns, Burnt Umbre Lanterns and whatever's left in the Crayola 64 box!
Yes indeedy. Lanterns don't count. Or Spider-villains that fly around on bat-rockets, or heroes that have other heroes names embedded in theirs, especially Batpeople, Superpeople or Spiderpeople, or SHIELD agents come to that.
The last original character that could possibly stand on his own that I can think of from either of the big two may be Gravity.

What impresses me, though, is when a writer can take an existing property and make it his own. Is there anything on the stands today quite like the new SHIELD book?
Philip Portelli said:
But those are just variations on the Green Lantern theme, which might I add, got REALLY repetitive after a while. What's next, Brown Lanterns, Grey Lanterns, Maroon Lanterns, Burnt Umbre Lanterns and whatever's left in the Crayola 64 box!

Sorry, but you're wrong. It's kinda like saying that a character who's a teacher isn't a new character because there's already a teacher character. Just because one aspect of a character is similar or even identical to another character doesn't mean the entire character is.

Each one of the other Corps characters is a distinct character. Larfleeze is nothing like Atrocitus is nothing like Hal Jordan is nothing like Amon Sur is nothing like Dexx-Star is nothing like Indigo-1 is nothing like...

The only thing they have in common is some kind of ring. I guess that means none of the Legion of Super-Heroes was an original character, either.

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! Comics and Games for Everyone!

I used to listen to WOXY.com; It was the future of rock-n-roll! RIP WOXY


On the one hand, I agree with Dags: that a new character is of a class as an already-existing character doesn't mean the character isn't original. I mean, the fact that Ruse's Simon Archard was basically a Sherlock Holmes extension doesn't make him any less of an original character.

But on the other, I do get what Figs is saying: all the Lantern characters, for all that they may be original, exist solely (or at least primarily) to serve and further an existing brand. So in that way a Saint Walker comic (say) wouldn't inherently have the same originality as an Aztek or a Gravity would, because the former would exist to build on the Green Lantern market, whereas the latter exist to stand or fall on their own. (Of course, Aztek or Gravity exist to further the "DC Universe" and "Marvel" brands, respectively, so in that case any character made for either of the superhero universes is going to fall under the same limitations...)
Dagwan said: Each one of the other Corps characters is a distinct character. Larfleeze is nothing like Atrocitus is nothing like Hal Jordan is nothing like Amon Sur is nothing like Dexx-Star is nothing like Indigo-1 is nothing like...

That's missing the point I'm making. All those characters, and most of the different Corps members come to that were pre-exisiting characters before Johns resurrected Hal. Larfleeze was the exception I mentioned.

I've already noted the ingenuity of how writers get around not wanting to make up new characters and concepts. I don't think regular comics readers realise how bizarre, weird, self-reflective, intense and insular Johns has made his Green Lantern mythos. Its very much its own thing, and I admire any writer that gets to play out his own demented vision of a fictional universe. Still, its constantly banging against the borders of its constricted world. Previous writers have killed off, one by one, the good characters, (and Hollywood-schooled Johns is too canny to gift DC with any new ones) so within the story the laws of physics and metaphysics have to be bent every which way and laboured over for dozens of issues to bring them back. Everything in this sealed off universe is thus backward looking rather than moving forward in any kind of sensible way.

The mechanics of telling a story only using decades-old properties has actually become the subject of John's saga, rather than it being about anything that a writer would choose to write about given a blank sheet of paper and complete creative freedom.

I'm really looking forward to reading the new SHIELD series when its collected. Marvel goes Vertigo all too rarely. There's something in Marvel's make-up that doesn't allow it. Come to think of it, using historical characters and ancestors of existing characters is another way around not making up new characters. I have a feeling the writer will have twisted present Marvel continuity out of all shape by the time he's done, however.

Yes, writers get around the self-imposed 'restriction' in some creative and even enjoyable ways, but I suspect we are in the endgame now. Once Johns is done, will the next generation of writers have to think up a whole new cosmology that allows tired old properties to get up and dance for us once again? As I've said elsewhere, Morrison's Batman feels like the story you tell when all the other stories have been told. It is about all the other stories and all the other Batman eras and personas. Thing is, what story will they tell after this one?

My point is that the restriction of not creating new concepts and properties, of itself isn't suffocating superhero comics as we know them, but combined with corporate pressures to keep cycling around the main properties, fan insistence on stories that 'really affect' the core characters, and with up to 70 years(!!!!!) of continuity baggage around their necks, superhero comics are definitely going around in ever decreasing circles.

Each Age of comics has dealt with the problem in its own way, with often ingenious solutions - Earth Two, Crisis reboots, 'legacy heroes', but as a corollary, each Age added to the list of things that can't really be done again, so that the options are continually narrowing.

The mid-nineties was its own very distinct era in this progression, and that's part of what I'll be discussing in this thread.
I'm amused that when Grant Morrison plays with preexisting characters and concepts a la his Batman run, it's genius, but when Geoff Johns does it it's insular and derivative.

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