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Author Topic: Steve Englehart's influence on the JLA cartoon  (Read 3462 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: August 17, 2006, 08:27:29 AM »

I don't know if you guys know this, but actually, I'm a big, big fan of Steve Englehart.  :lol: If by "fan," I mean "consider him the greatest writer in comics history."

So, I was very, very pleased to see that Englehart, and his brief run in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (between issues 140-149 in 1977, the same time as Englehart's "definitive" run on DETECTIVE COMICS) was a major point of inspiration on the cartoon series.

After all, the very second story after the pilot, with a Green Lantern captured by the Manhunters for the crime of blowing up a planet only to reveal that it was all a plot by the Manhunter robots to discredit the Green Lanterns and the Guardians, is taken from JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #140-141. This Englehart story, based on a throwaway line that the Guardians had experimented with other types of law enforcement before the Lanterns, gave us the highly malevolent presence of the Manhunters into the DC canon.

(I also like how this JUSTICE LEAGUE episode also had Superman acting as a detective; it's always tragic to see some episodes, notably "Starcrossed" that had Superman as nothing more than a muscleman, although this perhaps is a general criticism of Superman's treatment in team-ups and teams as a whole rather than just this series.)

The JUSTICE LEAGUE animated series also has a big role for Hawkgirl...a character who, lest we forget, was introduced by Englehart into the League in the first place! It was also Englehart that first changed her name to Hawkwoman, though apparently the guys on the show didn't feel the need to go that far. Hawkgirl was emphasized on the show as being tough and competent (she kicked more boo-tay than Superman and Batman put together!), very much in keeping with how Englehart portrayed her, as a strong woman in her own right instead of being Mrs. Hawkman.

And the JLA series used John Stewart as the show's Green Lantern, a character for whom it was Englehart that made the decision to KEEP as a GL during his years on GREEN LANTERN and GREEN LANTERN CORPS; prior to Englehart, the assumption was that Stewart would bow out and Hal would come back in. Englehart also brought back Hal Jordan himself later on, of course, but there was a long stretch there with extraordinary stories with John Stewart that did a lot to make him a distinctive leading man and heroic character. Sure, the inclusion of John Stewart was probably done for reasons of social responsibility, but also because he was able to be established and made likeable hero material by Englehart's run (with Katma Tui and Guy thrown in for color).
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2006, 12:05:42 PM »

That Hawkgirl is almost completely a new entity, no?  The strong, breakout characters on the show --I've seen about 1/6 of the series in one form or another-- were basically nobodies/ciphers in the mainstream DC Comics.  

Jack Kirby had a bigger influence on the series.  More of the characters and themes he first introduced/created were spotlighted than any other comics creator I can think of.  Maybe Siegel/Shuster.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2006, 01:51:20 PM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
That Hawkgirl is almost completely a new entity, no?


It's the Silver/Bronze Age Hawkgirl - detective from Thanagar and so forth, using the Englehart strong characterization, and a few things unique to this animated version, like the "lightsaber" space-mace, the light Spanish accent, and the lack of Hawkman, museum job, and Absorbascon. There are elements of HAWKWORLD, such as Thanagarian militancy, and the fact Hawkgirl came to earth as a spy (though used with much greater effect).

Quote from: "TELLE"
The strong, breakout characters on the show --I've seen about 1/6 of the series in one form or another-- were basically nobodies/ciphers in the mainstream DC Comics.  


Well...that depends on your definition of who would qualify as a "nobody/cypher." Some of the stronger episodes with stories told based on a single character were Green Arrow and Booster Gold, for instance...I doubt they'd qualify as B-listers. Though a character as esoteric as King Faraday doing a guest-shot was pretty unexpected, I must say.

Quote from: "TELLE"
Jack Kirby had a bigger influence on the series.  More of the characters and themes he first introduced/created were spotlighted than any other comics creator I can think of.  Maybe Siegel/Shuster.


Here's the thing: Jack Kirby never did a run on JLA comics. I don't think it's reasonable to count Kirby as an influence on a book he didn't really help shape.

I don't deny somebody as ubiquitous as the King would certainly have some influence in a Godfather-esque sense on any show about superheroes, however, among the seven principle characters originally selected for the show, the two idiosyncratic and less obvious choices were characters that Englehart wrote (and the show creators used the Englehart characterization), with Hawkgirl being a character he brought on the team and made a tough cookie, and John Stewart being a character that Englehart worked to establish as a character when others would have done stories with Hal.

Denny O'Neil and Dick Dillin created the JLA Sattellite, not Englehart, but this was the time that Englehart wrote his stories, so it's apparent they've got that time period on the brain, for instance.

Don't get me wrong, Kirby's concepts certainly were influential (the presence of the Fourth World stuff, for instance, or the Demon in a lot of episodes) but not any specific, individual story, even in a vague, reworked way. Note I didn't mention Englehart's LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE issues; the episode that was loosely adapted from it was in fact so loose I'm not sure it qualifies as having Englehart as prime visionary). If we had the Leaguers team up with Orion and Lightray to blast the Deep Six, okay, you may be right.
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2006, 03:13:07 PM »

The writers of the show decided to use Hawkgirl ONLY because they felt there were too many men on the team, so they replaced Hawkman with Hawkgirl, that's it, there is nothing more to the story than that. Same reason why they used John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan, they felt they needed a black hero, so they went with that Green Lantern instead.

The irony is that they ended up being the two best characters on the show, perhaps the writers wanted to make sure there wasn't a backlash from hardcore fans.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2006, 12:51:15 AM »

Quote from: "Super Monkey"
The writers of the show decided to use Hawkgirl ONLY because they felt there were too many men on the team, so they replaced Hawkman with Hawkgirl, that's it, there is nothing more to the story than that. Same reason why they used John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan, they felt they needed a black hero, so they went with that Green Lantern instead.


Absolutely the reason these characters were chosen was "social responsibility," the same reason they felt the need to introduce a bright pink female Transformer in the last season, as totally dysfunctionally insane an idea as that is. They selected characters that Englehart had a big role in developing, and so consequently his influence through them can be felt in the show.

Quote from: "Super Monkey"
The irony is that they ended up being the two best characters on the show, perhaps the writers wanted to make sure there wasn't a backlash from hardcore fans.


I did like how the first story after the pilot was a John Stewart story.

Significantly, it was a story that in JUSTICE LEAGUE #140-141 that previously had Hal Jordan, only they slipped Hal out and put in John, as if to say, "look, John can work as Hal."

The one character I was nervous about was the Wally West version of the Flash. As much as I love the character of Wally thanks to Baron and Messner-Loebs...if they're going to have the Flash, why not go for the classic guy, Barry?

But I am very, very pleased to have been wrong: Wally stole the show. He's just about everybody's favorite character.
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2006, 05:43:29 AM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
Jack Kirby had a bigger influence on the series.  More of the characters and themes he first introduced/created were spotlighted than any other comics creator I can think of.  Maybe Siegel/Shuster.


Sorry - but I'm thinking not.  The Jack Kirby influence was laid down in the Superman series - and JL and JLU episodes this occurred in relied on those for the back story - but were Superman-heavy stories.  Considering that Kirby's 4th world crossed into the DCU with Superman's pal, then this makes a lot of sense.  These were far less than the rest and mainly only showed up when Superman was the highlited character of the episode.

Up unitl Julian made this point, the only one's outside of Kirby that I could easily differentiate were Wolfman/Perez, Fox, some Waid and Moore.  But Englehart is definately above and beyond the rest, particularly in Julian's Stewart and Hawkgirl points - but also in the character developments of those  that are rather quirky - the Question and Huntress, Green Arrow, et al.

It's rather interesting how faithful all the animated series tried to be to classic DCU.  From Kirby's 4th world, a Kane/Finger/Sprang/O'Neil/et al. Batman (which was rather brilliant), a Shuster-esque Superman, the Super Friends and on and on.  I've always thought it was a well thought out and developed series of adventures, that is until the Titans.

Of a note, the style model that was being used at the outset of the development of the DCU was actually the original Superman toons from the 40s - of which Shuster was involved in the character sheets for.  Hence, the obvious Shuster influence since.
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