Thursday, October 26, 2006

Postcards from the Justice League

So after Ambush Bug appeared on the cover of last week's issue of 52 (Week 24), I began reminiscing about the 1980s-era DC Universe... you know, back When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny.

Back in those days, the ground zero for mirth in the DCU was of course Justice League International (brought to us by the incredible creative team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire).

I still remember discovering JLI in the summer of 1988. It was already on issue 14 at that point -- the premiere of intergalactic supervillain Manga Khan -- and its witty dialogue and irreverent take on superheroes really struck a chord with me (and sent me on a quest to find all of the back issues, of course).

Back then my friends and I played a number of roleplaying games, including the superhero-themed RPG Villains & Vigilantes. JLI was the first comic I'd ever read in which the superheroes behaved the same way we did during our V&V games (which is to say, immaturely). As a group there weren't many things we took seriously, and pretending to save the world definitely wasn't one of them.

Thinking back on the good old days inspired me to dig deep in my closet, past the stack of comic boxes, where I found, tucked away in an envelope inside a cardboard box full of family photographs, my Justice League International postcard set (which I duly scanned and posted on Flickr for everyone to enjoy). Released in the late '80s, each postcard was drawn by Kevin Maguire, inked by Joe Rubinstein, and colored by Steve Oliff. (Not surprisingly, no one took credit for the questionable text on the back of the postcards, which is chock-full of awkward sentences and exclamation points).

And although none of the postcards from my JLI set ever actually fell into the evil clutches of the U.S. Post Office, I like to think of them as missives from an earlier time; souvenirs from before DC Comics' search-and-destroy mission to murder, debase, or retcon every "fun" character from an earlier epoch that didn't demand that everyone wearing brightly-colored spandex costumes have such a grave demeanor. If you think I'm exaggerating, you can check out Wikipedia's extensive list of offenses against the heroes and supporting cast members of Justice League International. Suffice it to say that the Brave New Continuity of Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and 52 has not been kind to them.

I have to wonder about the motivations behind these editorial decisions. Are there people at DC who feel that the DC Universe must be humorless in order for their comics to be taken seriously... as if you can't be serious about comedy? Are there professionals in the comics industry who are still defensive about the comics medium, and who feel that the only way to silence the critics is to show them just how deadly serious comics can be? (I think Steve Gerber may have put it best in his "Ooh! Dark!" blog post).

Anyway, I hope these postcards manage to bring back some fond memories for fans of the JLI's better days, before the tone of the DC Universe, and these characters' lives, switched from comedy to tragedy.


SallyP said...

Yes, I do indeed remember when comics were actually fun. JLI was at the top of my list. And I completely enjoyed the romp through the past when they brought out "Formerly Known as the Justice League" etc. Interestingly enough however, the most poignant moment ever, is in the latter with the Orpheus twist on Ice, Guy and Fire. That has always hit me a lot harder than the "dark" and "realistic" comics.

Don said...

Okay...he may look gay, but the dude rocks! I've never read Green Lantern cuz, well, I thought it was gay, but now, WOW! He's my new favorite superhero! Right behind Batman. And Wolverine. Flash. And Rorshach. Wonderwoman (mmm...Wonderwoman). And Hulk. And Spiderman. Oh, and what about Ghostrider. And what are the names of those cute little superhero girls...The Power Puff Girls. Yep...I really like that Gardner guy! He rocks! :P