Wow--you guys are awesome!
I've had a lot of fun with this blog, and seeing the enthusiasm the original JLA still generates in people is a real joy to see. I had no idea what kind of response I'd get to the New Frontier contest, but I'm happy to say I got nothing but well thought-out suggestions, so let's get right to 'em!:
Adama, he of the Green Arrow blog Dispatches From The Arrowcave, suggested Captain Comet: "Yes, I would love to have seen Captain Comet in the Justice League. I think he would have brought a space adventure/cosmic fun aspect to the League. I mean sure, the League went out into space, but were any of them actually an authority on galactic politics? I think not!"
My friend Richard, aka RAB of the Estoreal blog, sent me a long piece, first considering some other characters, like Ultra, Sargon, Supergirl, and Robotman, before stating why they should be eliminated. (He cleverly points out that Steve Englehart's "secret origin" issue of JLA, #144, is, in many ways, a thematic ancestor to New Frontier) He, too, settles on the good captain, saying "Clearly the best choice is...Captain Comet.
Gerry Conway retconned the Captain as having been away in space for twenty years in Secret Society of Super-Villains, of course, and he went on to interact with the JLA in other books but never actually joined forces with the entire team in the pages of their own comic. He's been revived a couple of times since then, but he was never better than when he briefly skirted greatness with the JLA."
My pal and frequent contributor to the Rob Kelly Family of Blogs, Vince Bartilucci, sent in an exhaustively detailed piece--almost an essay--that takes in every conceivable angle in an attempt to answer this question. He considers characters' histories, how they would fit within the JLA framework, and even how they would look as rendered by Dick Dillin!
He, too, considers Captain Comet, as well as members of the Teen Titans, Captain Marvel, Mera(trying to bribe the judge will not work, Vince!), the Human Target, Batgirl, the Creeper, before blowing my mind with his ultimate pick...Shade, the Changing Man!
Shade, the Changing Man?? Yes, says Vince: "Shade's feature distorting force field (courtesy of his M-Vest) is a great power not exhibited by any other Justice Leaguer. And he doesn't require any special environment or conditions to shine. When the story focuses on another Leaguer he can still contribute.
Shade’s 'fugitive from another dimension' origin can supply the raw material for both little character bits and full-blown adventures. He might even keep his fugitive status a secret from his fellow Leaguers. What happens when his people come for him? How do his JLA comrades react to the news that he's a wanted man in some other dimension? Conflict, anyone?
Visually, Shade's powers are dynamite. I'm sure Dillin would have done a great job of depicting the Changing Man’s fearsome visage--there would be no mistaking Rac for any other Leaguer in a crowded fight scene. You think Batman is scary, huh? Check out this freak! And his standard 'unchanged' costume is both super-heroey and distinct at the same time.
Finally, Shade, The Changing Man was created by Steve Ditko. Pedigree must count for something!"
Wow, Vince--now that's thinking outside the box.
New commenter Butch had an equally unique suggestion: Vartox! Says Butch: "Imagine facing a group with Superman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and Vartox.
Vartox would also allow for any existing members of the League to be phased out or de-emphasized as the writer would want (so if Superman is busy in his monthly book, here's Vartox to pick up the slack). I think Vartox would be great friends with J'onn and I could see Vartox and the other members with the JLA who have experience with aliens/alien culture (Hawkman, Hal Jordan) getting along well. And while I don't know where exactly he would fit in the argument, imagine him taking Green Arrow's side in his arguments with Hawkman.
Frequent Hey Kids! contributor George Rears makes a case for Plastic Man, even alongside The Elongated Man: First of all, it would have generated exposure to the character, and established him as an Earth-1 fixture (which the company wavered on throughout the 70s). It would also have helped lighten the load during the thematically heavy Denny O'Neil run.
Later on, the creative team turned Elongated Man into Plastic Man when he joined the League anyway: using him for laughs--and only using him as a detective when Batman was on another mission. Having Plastic Man in the League would have allowed the Elongated Man to stay true to himself--an excellent supporting character who was capable of carrying his own feature due to his own unique quirkiness as a married, publicly known adventurer.
Luke, of the comic blog El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker, had a more recent and unusual suggestion: "A hero who should have been inducted into the hallowed halls of the Justice League but hasn't is none other than the legendary hero Skyrocket!
Skyrocket's real name is Celia Forrestal, and she was a Navy pilot who's skills were unmatched. When it became clear that she was never going to gain advancement in the service, she (with the help of a battlesuit-harness developed by her parents) became a superhero, using the Argo Harness's ability to absorb and redirect any form of energy to battle evil.
Now, why does Skyrocket deserve to be in the Justice League? First off, her background in the Armed Forces means that she knows how to work in a team environment, but he skills as a pilot means that she excels as an individual as well.
Her powers make her a formidable foe as well. The Argo Harness, in addition to granting her the power of flight, also can absorb just about any type of energy thrown at it--a useful defensive power. Once absorbed, Skyrocket can redirect the energy as an attack, or absorb it to restore the Harness's power cells.
But that is not the only reason why I think she would make a great addition to the team. The Justice League started out primarily as a Boy's Club--you had Wonder Woman, true, but that was it. Later, there were a smattering of other female members, or members of color, such as Black Canary, or Doctor Light, but as a whole, diversity has not historically been one of the League's strong suits. Skyrocket, besides representing a powerful ally for her fellow Leaguers, also would represent the notions of inclusion and diversity for the greatest collection of heroes the universe has ever known. And at the same time, she's not a character who was created to be representative of the race--she's not a token character in any sense."
All of these are great suggestions, and all of them are great examples of how much the DC Universe means to people, even as we go from young enthusiastic readers to aging, crabby fanboys. All the entries were well thought out, and in a lot of ways all of them are justifiable.
After weighing the options, I'm going to go with the choice that, at first read, seemed the most ridiculous: Shade the Changing Man.
At the time, Shade was an irredeemably weird character, but his later addition to the DCU proper showed that, under other writers, he fit in with other heroes just fine. His uniform and powers would've been a great contrast to the rest of the JLA, and at the time of his creation--1977--the JLA was starting to evolve, and would soon start to add younger(either in chronological age or in publishing debut) members like Zatanna and Firestorm.
It was a tough call, since all the submissions make sense in their own way. But the more I thought about Vince's suggestion of Shade, the more I couldn't get it out of my head, and the more I wanted to actually have seen it happen in the book. So congratulations, Vince! Send me your address and the WB will be shipping you a copy of Justice League: The New Frontier.
I hope everybody had fun coming up with their ideas, and enjoyed the contest--thanks for all your effort and being a reader of the blog! (And for my money, I would've loved to have seen a Justice League with Captain Comet and Plastic Man!)
Before we go, I think now is the best time to let the inimitable Fred Hembeck weigh in on the issue, which he did in his own unique way back in 1979 in the first issue of his series Fantaco series Hembeck:
Hmm...no one did suggest Brother Power!