Monday, August 25, 2008

Secret Origins #32 - Dec. 1988

sgThe secret origin of the JLA!

The Story: "All Together Now" by Keith Giffen, Peter David, Gardner Fox, and Eric Shanower. On the distant planet Appellax, we see seven would-be leaders--all of whom claim to have assassinated the previous leader--being sent off to Earth to fight to the death.

Whoever is the winner of this battle royale will return to Appellax and claim the throne. Simple, no?

One of them has the temerity to ask, but what if they are overcome by someone, say, from Earth?

The judge says this is absurd: "You are the best Appellax has to offer. If they defeated all seven of you, we'd never go near Earth again."

And so it begins:
The first hero who will meet these would-be Appellax conquerors is the Martian Manhunter:
He faces the giant stone creature, but in the melee his power of invisibility turns off, revealing him to the local citizens. They think he's a special effect from a movie.

Next up is the King of the Seven Seas:
...he encounters the Mercury creature, and with the help of his finny friends, keeps it from turning him permanently into a blob of mercury.

He then hears of a strange meteor that landed in the Florida Everglades, and heads there. Once he arrives, he sees someone else...

But before we find out who, we see the next hero up to bat is Black Canary:
She takes on the Glass Creature, and a well-place Sonic Cry reduces him to bits.

She also hears the story about Florida, and heads there, too. She meets others who have arrived there ahead of her.

Next up is Green Lantern:
He takes on the Golden Roc (of course its yellow!), and then heads to Florida. He gets too close before he can be told he stay away, so...

Last is The Flash:
He fights the Fire Creature, defeats him, and likewise heads to Florida.

He is the last to arrive, and suffers the same fate as the other heroes:
...of course, you all know the story form here...sort of. The heroes use teamwork to defeat the Wood Creature, and the head for Antarctica, where there were reports of one last meteor.

Except when they get there, Superman is already mopping up. He takes no notice of the star-struck heroes, and flies off.

Flash liked how they worked together, and proposes forming a club, or a society? Howabout calling it The Avengers, after that TV show?

No, wait, howabout The Justice League:

...not the end!

Roll Call: Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary

Notable Moments: There were a couple of reasons not to include this book on the blog: one, it was published outside of the run of the original JLA book, and two, it features the dreaded ret-conning, where classic stories are rewritten to match current storyline concerns.

Normally that stuff make me roll my eyes, since I think a lot of damage can be done to great, classic concepts for the sake of momentary necessity.

This is such a case--the JLA was and is the big seven of the DCU circa 1960, and suggesting the Big Three weren't part of that seems so silly.

Complicating that even further, was replacing Wonder Woman with a later member, Black Canary, which disrupts even more classic JLA stories--every one for the first eight years, actually. I understand the need to have at least five members, and one of them be a woman, and DC had a real lack of heroines from this era--who else was available--Miss America? Firebrand? Phantom Lady? But having Black Canary in here just seems...wrong.

All that said, I included this because this retelling--changes and all--is so darn fun. Its got a good sense of humor, the heroes are real people, and Giffen and David wisely don't mess with the basics of Gardner Fox's immortal story. Plus, the art is gorgeous--Eric Shanower wasn't someone who you saw do a lot of superhero work, so his take on the World's Greatest Superheroes is a real treat.


John Trumbull said...

And here I thought the bonus issue would the Alex Ross/Paul Dini treasury...

This really was a charming retelling of the JLA's origin. Shoehorning the Black Canary into the story works decently, but of course it's not the same as having Wonder Woman there. I still don't get why DC didn't just declare that WW started her career around the same time as Superman & Batman. Having her debut in the "present-day" DCU seemed to create more problems than it solved.

Batman was sorely missed, too, but it is kind of neat that the JLAers don't officially meet Superman.

One of the nice little touches in the story is that most of the individual JLAers just had other significant encounters: J'onn's presence is revealed to the world, Aquaman first finds Atlantis, Black Canary makes her debut, and Green Lantern meets the GL Corps and the Guardians of the Universe.

One thing I don't understand: Why was the Flash's segment changed from Italy to England?

Butch R said...

I always liked the fact that Gardner Fox was given credit for the story, I thought it showed a touch of class.
Post Crisis was a weird bag for me. I hated the fact the Multiple Earths concept had been taken away (I will NEVER accept it was "too hard to understand"). I remember wondering if this story had still happened or had this one. Sometimes it was interesting finding out how things happened, such as this case. Sometimes (late introductions of Hawkman & Wonder Wonder in the timeline) it seemed like everyone had their own little agendas and it simply wasn't working.
Still Rob hits the nail on the head with the fact the story is funny (Hal's attempt to find a catch phrase still comes to mind) and I really did like the Shanowaer art on it even if I don't think I would want to see it on JLA all the time.

Earth 2 Chris said...

Despite the continuity implants, I love this story. It proved you could meld the "BWAHAHAHA" JLI humor with good old-fashioned super heroics and it would work. It contains one of my all time favorite scenes in a comic:
GL: "My Power Ring will get us there"
Black Canary: (thought balloon) "My, arent' we full of ourselves."



Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

Nope. Didn't like it. Didn't appreciate the humor. Not one bit.

I've made no secret of the fact that I grew to really dislike the sitcom era of the Justice League. The creative people involved are incredibly talented but they took the book in a direction that I think was all wrong for "The World's Greatest Super-Heroes." I know that there are a whole army of folks out there who love the JLI. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

But, with this story Giffen and David did more than just rewrite the team's 60's origin to accomodate DC's wrong-headed editorial edicts regarding Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Nope they went one step further and changed the tone of the original tale to better match the "fun" JLI title then being published. To me, that was just as infuriating as the absense of the big three.

Great art, though.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

While I was writing my comment, Chris posted his.

Just so you know, Chris, I wasn't trying to contradict you. I just disagree.

Earth 2 Chris said...

No problem Vincent. I really only liked the "BWAHAHA" era when they carefully balanced the humor with true super hero action. When it became a "sitcom" as you call it, it didn't fit the League at all. Kind of like the 60s Batman show. It only straddled that razor edge of parody for one season before becoming an out-and-out comedy. There were a few other "serious" stories that worked, but for the most part, after the first 10 or so issues it got to funny for it's own good.


Butch R said...

Looks like Earth 2 Chris & I totally agree about the Bwahaha era. Humor can be done in super hero comics, but it's a fine line.
After a while, the JL became a punch line IMO and I had to leave. But since we got the Morrison/Porter after that and it was something close the satellite era, I was good with that.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

Y'see nothing takes me out of a story faster than a bad pun or a silly/cute situation. The Oreos, Manga Khan, the constant referal to "one punch", and every single bwa-ha-ha brought the story to a screeching halt for me.

And yet, I liked Young Justice which was similar in many ways to the JLI - more puns less silly/cute. Took me a lomg time to realize that the main reason I could unclench my ... fists ... and enjoy YJ was that A) DC didn't call it Teen Titans and B) I couldn't give a damn about any of the characters involved except for Red Tornado.

How much of a pathetic fanboy am I, huh?

Earth 2 Chris said...

I just want to add Shanower's Black Canary is one of my favorite of the character. He proves you can draw a sexy comic heroine without her looking anatomically disproportionate.


rob! said...

i considered a post on the dini/ross book, but by the time of that book's release--2003--nostalgia for the classic JLA had taken over. everyone knew what a good thing they had that was now gone.

but SO #32 came out about 18 months after JLA #261, which to my mind makes more from the original book's era, which was my focus of the blog.

i know it doesn't make total sense, but that's how i think sometimes.

Wich2 said...

If Retrocons themself would finally be retroconned out of existence, it would make for better, more fun, comic books.

-Craig W.

Matt Celis said...

Shanower's art was/is great. The humor is ill-conceived as GL isn't an egomaniac and BC isn't a reactionary. Or maybe they are now. Don't know as I gave up on DC when they gave up on themselves circa '85. Tried them for a couple more years and enjoyed some comics but the whole "Batman is a grim loner and not friends with Superman" and "Wonder Woman is a novice who can fly now" and "Luthor is Donald Trump" changes just killed it.

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