Let’s face it. I’m a bit of a traditionalist. When it comes to the big-name teams from DC and Marvel, I want the mega-rosters, please, with characters rotating in and out based on each adventure’s needs and classic “one line explains why Superman/Thor isn’t available right now” dialogue and mostly mega villains and all in one monthly title instead of 16: The Satellite Era Justice League. The Korvac Saga Avengers. The 70s Era Teen Titans. The Gerry Conway-Wally Wood Justice Society. The Claremont-Byrne Era X-Men. The All-Star Squadron. The Legion of Super-Heroes. And I’m also a fan of continuity – not slavish to it, but keeping that sense of history and legacy. If I had my way, characters would age and grow and pass the mantle on.
So when Luke asked me “If you could revamp the Justice League, and do anything you want, what would you do?” I didn’t have to think very hard. I’ve covered this topic in discussions with comic book friends for years now, as far back as 1985 and the aftermath of DC’s original Crisis On Infinite Earths. I’ve always had two criteria: one, that the roster can’t be limited to a set number (ala Grant Morrison’s twelve heroes that map onto the twelve Greek gods) and two, that every part of the DC Universe needed to be represented (meaning the inclusion of characters from companies DC had bought up over the years: the Fawcett, Quality and Charlton lines). While the exact line-up changes every time I think about this, there are a few constants: I’m not too worried about repetition in power as long as there isn’t too much duplication in personality (I mean, Superman and the Martian Manhunter have always largely duplicated each other and that works out fine); the Legacy concept is important (I usually can’t come up with a JL roster without then coming up with JS and TT rosters as well); and stories need to be told concisely and dramatically (none of this penchant for decompression, taking 9 issues to tell a story that really only needs 3, on my watch thank you very much). The Satellite Era JLA managed plenty of character-building without dragging story arcs out for a year or more at a time.
So who would I put in a Justice League these days? Allowing for my own fascination with the idea of legacy, I’d populate my JL, with the children and grandchildren of the characters who debuted in the 1940s, with a direct line of succession from Justice Society to Justice League to Teen Titans/Young Justice.
From DC/All-American Comics:
SUPERMAN III (Clark Kent III): The Superman line would run from the 1940s debut of Superman I, who worked for the Daily Star and married Lois Lane, through Superman II, who debuted as Superboy before growing up to be a television reporter and marrying Lana Lang, to Superman III, who also debuted as Superboy and grew up to be a reporter for the Daily Planet and marry fellow reporter Chloe Sullivan. Breaking the chain, Clark III and Chloe have named their twin sons Christopher and Connor. Superman I’s cousin came to Earth as Supergirl decades after Kal-El and eventually graduated to Superwoman; Superman II’s daughter took the name Power Girl instead.
BATMAN III (JASON TODD): The Bat-Mantle has not stayed directly in the Wayne family, although the Wayne fortune still supports the Batman Family. Bruce Wayne passed the mantle to Dick Grayson, who passed the cowl to Jason Todd. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s daughter Helena is The Huntress; Dick Grayson married original Bat-Girl Bette Kane and their children Richard Jr and Kate are Nightwing and Flamebird; current Batman Jason Todd is married to current Batwoman Barbara Gordon and their adopted daughter Stephanie is the current Batgirl. The current Robin is Damien Wayne, grandson of Bruce Junior and Talia al’Ghul. Tim Drake, Jason Todd’s first Robin, is in college and now goes by the name Red Robin.
WONDER WOMAN II (Donna Troy): Amazons are amazingly long-lived, even if their spouses are not. Diana, Princess of Themiscyra, is married to Steve Trevor and semi-retired. Her adopted sister Donna Troy, originally Wonder Girl, has been Wonder Woman since the 1960s; her Wonder Girls have included Lyta Trevor (now known as Fury), Vanessa Kapatelis (now the villain Silver Swan) and current Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark (an illegitimate daughter of Zeus).
GREEN LANTERN V (Kyle Rayner): Being Earth’s Green Lantern is not an easy title to carry for long despite the slowed aging and longevity the rings provide. Alan Scott passed the mantle to Hal Jordan, who was succeeded by John Stewart, who was followed by Guy Gardner, and the current Green Lantern is Kyle Rayner. Every GL has trained the next one, but the previous GLs’ children have all opted to pursue other heroic names and careers. Kyle Rayner’s trainee is teenage actor/gay rights activist Charley Vickers.
FLASH III (Wally West): The Speed Force connects all of the speedsters in the DCU, whether they go by the name “Flash” or not, and provides the same age-retardation factor that the GL rings, Kryptonian genes and Amazon life-force grant. Jay Garrick passes the name to Barry Allen; Barry and Iris Allen’s kids opted for a career as the Tornado Twins, allowing Barry’s first partner and nephew, Wally West, to take the Flash name. Barry’s grandchildren Bart and Jenni are Impulse and XS; Wally’s daughter is the current Kid Flash.
HAWKMAN AND HAWKWOMAN III (Norda Cantrell and Kendra Saunders) The original Hawkman and Hawkwoman (Carter and Shiera Hall) are in semi-retirement along with the rest of the Justice Society and the Thanagarian Hawkman and Hawkwoman (Katar and Shayera Hol) have left Earth to be part of an interplanetary alliance between Thanagar, Rann and other planets. The original Hawks’ son Hector has become the villainous Silver Scarab and the Thanagarian Hawks’ ward Charlie Parker has retired after a serious injury. Norda and Kendra (the original Hawks’ foster son and niece) have taken the mantle of the Hawks and have taken Charlie’s son Charles Junior as their sidekick Golden Eagle.
From Charlton Comics:
BLUE BEETLE III (Jaime Reyes): The scarab and mantle of Blue Beetle have passed from Dan Garrett to Ted Kord to Ted’s research assistant Jaime Reyes. The nature of the Scarab allows each Beetle to manifest powers according to their own personality and whims. Dan wanted to be strong and impervious to harm; Ted wanted to be incredibly agile; Jaime wants to be protected and blast things out of the sky.
NIGHTSHADE (Eve Eden): As heir to the throne of the Land of Nightshades, “Eve” is virtually immortal. She has served with the Shadowpact and with the Justice League and has links to most of the “darkness-generating” characters of the DCU, including a connection to The Shade.
From Fawcett Comics:
CAPTAIN MARVEL (Billy Batson): Towards the end of World War Two, Fawcett City was mystically closed off from the rest of Earth, and time stood still for the citizens trapped therein, including all of the Marvel Family and most of the rest of the heroes of Fawcett. The Justice League eventually frees Fawcett City from the trap, but no-one inside the city has aged a day since 1947. Billy and Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman are still kids who gain great powers when they speak the name of their patron, Shazam!
IBIS THE INVINCIBLE II (Danny Khalifa): The First Ibis, Prince Amentep, was the only Fawcett City-based hero not in the city limits when it was sealed off from the rest of the world. Cut off from the love of his life, Ibis began to age and eventually sought a successor: his own descendent, Danny Khalifa.
From Quality Comics:
PHANTOM LADY III (Stormy Knight) is the grand-daughter of original Phantom Lady Sandy Knight and her ex-husband Iron Munro. She has the abilities exhibited by the pre-Crisis Phantom Lady in Freedom Fighters, which means she can turn invisible. Stormy has a daughter who goes by Phantom Girl.
PLASTIC MAN II (Ralph Dibny): With a nod to Win Scott Eckert and the rest of the gang at the Expanded Wold Newton Universe site, I’m a fan of the idea that Ralph Dibny is Eel O’Brien’s son and that the stretching ability is genetically passed on. Rather than call himself by a different name, Ralph has taken his father’s mantle. Ralph and his wife Sue have a son who also exhibits stretching abilities.
Anthony Cardno is a writer whose work and blogging can be found here and he is frequently active on Twitter.