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Author Topic: Is it just me, or has the JLA just never...worked?  (Read 15564 times)
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2007, 08:05:18 PM »

Quote from: TELLE
Re: gimmick titles.  It's a tribute to the professionalism and creativity of the early DC teams (Fox, et al) that JLA managed at the very least to transcend its gimmickry. 

Well...I dispute that, because as said above in greater depth, I've never thought much of the Fox JLA, in my view one of the weakest of DC's Silver Age books despite its popularity.

But I certainly agree that Len Wein, Steve Englehart, and others were able to tell amazing tales. But my point here is this: the guys that did JLA best were the ones that told non-Foxlike tales. Which brings me to my next point.

Quote from: nightwing
To use a movie analogy, I think of the JLA like those old disaster epics, say "The Poseidon Adventure" or "Towering Inferno."  As a reader/viewer, you're wowed by the threat itself and along the way you're impressed by who shows up ("Look, there's Steve McQueen!  And Charlton Heston!  Hey, it's Fred Astaire!") It doesn't really matter whether Gene Hackman has a meaningful, revealing or insightful character scene with Shelley Winters, the point is all the big names showed up, and they're all working toward the same goal.

Quote from: Aldous
I agree. Those sub-plots (for want of a lesser term) were embarrassingly bad. I didn't like those comics the first time around, but I can't even read them now.

People keep on saying that in slightly different ways all through this thread, but I just don't understand the point. JLA was a weak comic and concept when it was plot-centered, and only when it became character-centered and "Marvel-style" did it really work.

We've mentioned Len Wein and Englehart, but I don't think enough has been said about the guy that followed Fox, Denny O'Neil. But Denny O'Neil was absolutely at his worst when following the League "formula" of plot centered tales with a large threat (e.g. nonsense like the "living suns," which would make sense in a 1940s issue of MARVEL FAMILY, but NOT ostensibly in JLA), and at his best when he was focusing on character: for instance, Black Canary moving to Earth-1 with the death of her husband, Red Tornado trying to fit in, and the lesser-powered members of the JLA arguing with the higher powered members over the League's approach to less than serious breaches of the law.

And it's not like "big budget, disaster movie" League stories are incompatible with characterization: Englehart in his very first story featured a secret conspiracy billions of years old ("NO MAN ESCAPES THE MANHUNTERS!") and ended his story in a battle that "engulfed half the galaxy" (!) but it was all dependent on characterizations like the Privateer discovering he was used by the Manhunters and his worldview ceasing to make sense, and Hal Jordan's guilt and sense of responsibility when he discovered he was "responsible" for the destruction of an entire planet.

Quote from: Kuuga
I think maybe the problem lies more not that JLA doesn't work as an idea as much as maybe it doesn't work as a monthly book. At least not as it has traditionally been structured since you are left with the colossal task of coming up with threats that require a whole team of that level of power to fight.

I don't know if I agree with that. For one thing, Legion of Super-Heroes was able to do the very thing you're describing - battle these colossal, galaxy-shaking menaces, and they did so on a regular basis. And they were able to squeeze in all sorts of character bits too, though in all fairness, unlike the JLA, none of the Legion members have their own title.

Maybe the reason Legion works and JLA doesn't is because the Legion has all the galaxy and outer space to work with.

Also, JLA doesn't necessarily have to oppose monstrously huge odds. My favorite issue of the Englehart JLA was #149, which featured no world-cracking menace, but had Doctor Light playing cat-and-mouse with the Leaguers.

Quote from: Kuuga
There is also issues with character since you have members with their own books whose character stuff you don't want to step on.

This is what I was telling Nightwing: JLA's most interesting members, who were given the most to do, were the characters that didn't have other books.

Quote from: Kuuga
Making a team of second stringers doesn't help either since it stinks the wind out of the whole concept.

I think we need a concise definition of what constitutes a second stringer, because none of the members of the Satellite League fall into that definition. I would be happy as a clam with a League roster made up of Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Zatanna, and the Hawks.

(Okay, sure, there's Firestorm, whom Telle called his least favorite character ever and I can't help but agree. Another "triumph" for Gerry Conway.)

Quote from: Kuuga
This is why I thought the way Timm and Co. went with JLU made alot of sense to me. I think this could even work for the comics. Every hero who is worth a darn are members. You can follow different sets of characters on different missions, playing up their interactions while also having a greater plot that affects all the DC heroes. This could be the centerpiece DC book and one stop shopping for seeing team-ups.

Hmmm, you might be on to something here.

I loved the team-up between Green Arrow and Captain Atom. They really "fused." What a wonderful "reaction." Ha ha ha.

Quote from: Kuuga
But now part of this would prolly mean nixing the JSA. Personally I think having them both in the same universe is just totally redundant so I would have no problem with that but I know the JSA name means alot to alot of people so for the comics that would likely be a tougher sell. Too bad there's no Earth 2.

I don't know if that's true. One of Geoff Johns's greatest accomplishments is the creation of a very unique JSA identity that doesn't overlap with the JLA - they have different members, different villains, different kinds of stories, and a whole different way of looking at themselves.

Quote from: SuperMonkey
They were still funny. I am amaze that once DC got a hold of him they got rid of the dark stuff, heck even during the Iron Age, they refuse to put it back in! 

As much as I admire Martin Pasko, the big problem with his 70s-80s Plastic Man tales was that he tried to be lighthearted, and wasn't truly successful in capturing the tone of the original series. He "Archified" Plas, made him more brightly colored, and toned down the squirmy trippiness.

And the big problem with Plas circa the 1990s on - apart from Grant Morrison's weird obsession with him, is that the basic concept of Plas is that he is the straight man to a surreal world, not unlike Pee Wee Herman in Tim Burton's PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. Plastic Man's "Jim Carrey on coke" characterization from the 1990s on was so unbelievably annoying that he actually made me get nostalgic for "Snapper" Carr.

Plus, Elongated Man would have been the better choice. I'm just saying is all.
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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2007, 02:08:05 PM »

Julian Perez writes:

Quote
I don't know if I agree with that. For one thing, Legion of Super-Heroes was able to do the very thing you're describing - battle these colossal, galaxy-shaking menaces, and they did so on a regular basis. And they were able to squeeze in all sorts of character bits too, though in all fairness, unlike the JLA, none of the Legion members have their own title.

Well, that makes all the difference, doesn't it?  Which I guess is what you were arguing at the start of this thread: groups composed of members created for the group work better dramatically than collections of, essentially, "guest stars" whose "real" lives are conducted elsewhere.

The Legion was great because things could happen, and did.  Members could fall in love and get married...and did.  Members could be killed in action...and were.  That opened up a lot of potential stories and subplots you'd never get in a book like JLA.  And when the Legion went up against a colossal menace, it was twice (maybe ten times) as dramatic because you really cared about the characters.  "What if Duo Damsel doesn't survive this mission?  And...and she just found love at last! It isn't fair!")

The beauty of the Legion...at least in the hands of someone like Shooter...was that the characterizations made the menaces more meaningful and the menaces made the characterizations more intense and dynamic.

So maybe I'm around to your way of thinking as far as that goes.  If you're talking about which team got me more involved and remains closer to my heart, the Legion worked a lot better than the JLA.

Quote
And it's not like "big budget, disaster movie" League stories are incompatible with characterization: Englehart in his very first story featured a secret conspiracy billions of years old ("NO MAN ESCAPES THE MANHUNTERS!") and ended his story in a battle that "engulfed half the galaxy" (!) but it was all dependent on characterizations like the Privateer discovering he was used by the Manhunters and his worldview ceasing to make sense, and Hal Jordan's guilt and sense of responsibility when he discovered he was "responsible" for the destruction of an entire planet.

Wow, Englehart wrote that Manhunter stuff?  I hated that story as a kid.  The only guy I hated worse than the Privateer was the Star Czar.  Was that Englehart, too?  I gave away those books about 20 years ago and haven't missed it.

Quote
This is what I was telling Nightwing: JLA's most interesting members, who were given the most to do, were the characters that didn't have other books.

Well, I do think this is probably the best strategy a writer can settle for on JLA; give the character bits to the second-stringers and have the big guns out of frame until the fighting starts.  But even as a youngster, it was very obvious to me this is what was going on.  I always knew there were the members with their stuff together and the ones who were always melting down...and I'll let you guess which ones I favored.

That said, it was fun watching Ollie and Katar's love/hate relationship unfold, even if I could see it for the Spock/McCoy imitation it was.

Quote
I think we need a concise definition of what constitutes a second stringer, because none of the members of the Satellite League fall into that definition. I would be happy as a clam with a League roster made up of Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Zatanna, and the Hawks.

I think we're saying a "second-stringer" is a character who doesn't rate his or her own book, especially if he/she doesn't have any world-class powers.  In terms of usefulness to the League, maybe it's not a fair appelation...after all, Ollie, Ralph, Dinah and the Hawks are certainly an A-Team compared to the likes of true second-stringers Ice Maiden, Booster Gold or Firestorm, let alone waterboys like Vibe and (Commander?) Steel.  But would anyone but you have bought the JLA line-up you suggest?  The world may never know.

Another factor in judging "second-stringer" status is permanence.  The Trinity has been in the League in almost every era (though hardly every issue) and some version of Flash and GL is a constant, too.  But the others come and go (Firestorm may have been in as many issues as Hawkman, for example), so I think there's a tendency to regard the "core" members as first-stringers and everyone else as replaceable, if not disposable.  That is to say, many would argue it's not "the League" without Superman or GL or the Flash, but the non-inclusion of the Atom or Elongated Man is hardly a deal-breaker.  Or going back to Star Trek a minute, a Trek episode without Sulu or Uhura is still a Trek episode, but one without Kirk and Spock, not so much. 

Quote
As much as I admire Martin Pasko, the big problem with his 70s-80s Plastic Man tales was that he tried to be lighthearted, and wasn't truly successful in capturing the tone of the original series. He "Archified" Plas, made him more brightly colored, and toned down the squirmy trippiness.

I think Plastic Man really only worked for Jack Cole.  He came from Jack Cole's heart and wonderfully twisted mind, and only Jack Cole could give to Plas with what Plas needs to work...namely, Jack Cole. 

Plas is like Popeye or Dick Tracy...still active in a sort of undead state though he really died with his creator. 
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« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2007, 07:20:10 PM »

I would buy a JLA with Plastic Man, Popeye and Dick Tracy.

When we are talking about team books that focus on the characterization and sub-plots of second stringers (non Big-3 or Big-5) we are talking about a marvelized book --the second-best formula for team books after the self-contained team (FF, Legion, X-Men, Doom Patrol, Titans).  The marvelized JLA did work better than the gimmicky Fox JLA (which worked better than, say, a book full of pin-ups).  At least it was more fun or rewarding to read for a certain age group.  Now I just get off at looking at weird clunky art and soap-opera heroics don't work in small single issue doses.

A bad all-star team was the one with Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake.  Potentially good, but who cares if you are going to water it down?

Who'd win:
Golden Guardian, Flash, Zantanna, and Green Arrow
vs
Captain America, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye?



 

 
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« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2007, 07:29:42 PM »

Well, it's nice to know that I am not the only one who thinks that the Silver Age Fox JLA is overrated.
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« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2007, 08:00:35 PM »

Well, it's nice to know that I am not the only one who thinks that the Silver Age Fox JLA is overrated.

Overrated by who, exactly?

You either like them or you don't. I remember what neat stories they were back in the day. I was just looking at "Crisis on Earth-Three" (a very old, dog-eared thing), and I re-read it a lot when I was a kid. The situations run to a formula, but then so do Bond films, Marvel Comics, and Westerns. There's a reason for that.

When I first read this comic, I recall being really intrigued by Power Ring and his magical power ring given to him by a monk...
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« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2007, 08:53:51 PM »

Certainly there has been a lot of lip service paid to the SA JLA over the years, especially by older pros and early zinesters.  Obits for Fox were full of paeans to the JLA.  The Roy Thomas types.  Gerald Jones's history of comics devotes a lot of positive attention to it.  Heck, even my big intro to the JLA (not counting the Superfriends) in #200 included a big text piece lauding the JLA and its many achievements.  Certainly it was a landmark series, historically important.  It did give us the FF, after all, and thus, n a round about way, Marvel and the Marvelization of the JLA!  But it's not even the best-written superhero comic of its time.

 
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« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2007, 08:55:23 PM »

But I still like parts of it, at least visually, and because it has the JSA in it!  Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2007, 09:00:29 PM »

For me, reading about it is better than reading it. The ideas introduce were better than the execution. Plus the artwork was really bad, IMHO.
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