There’s been a great deal of buzz surrounding the Justice League lately. The success of Man of Steel has ushered in the possibility of the long awaited JLA movie, a movie that will hopefully pack the same sort of punch that Marvel’s The Avengers did. Moreover, DC has an exclusive deal with Target which will load their shelves with Justice League merchandise, a deal which has already resulted in an animated advertisement featuring the New 52 version of the Justice League that is currently broadcasting into millions of homes everywhere. Also, the ever-common comic book summer event over at DC this year, called Trinity War, will feature all three current iterations of the Justice League at each other’s throats. So, as you can see, the Justice League is a hot commodity right now, and it’ll get hotter as we move forward towards the potential JLA movie. Now is the perfect time to revisit Justice Leaguers of yesteryear and the various teams and mythos they are associated with, namely, Justice League International.
The Justice League International has a long rich history of innovative storytelling. Writers J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen and artist Kevin Maguire created the core concept in 1987 with the title Justice League, which dropped the of America portion of the team name. It was a book full of laughs and touching interpersonal moments that changed the comic book game. No longer was the flagship team tied to the good old U.S. of A. The stories focused on character interactions which served to better define D-list characters who would eventually graduate to C-list in later years. The book would eventually open the door for other non-America-centric JL teams such as Justice League Europe.
The success of the original run encouraged DC’s efforts to recapture the magic, resulting in sporadic resurgences throughout the years, the latest being the New 52’s Justice League International, which starred much of the original cast. The purpose and function of the team was more based on governmental authority than ever before. The team answered directly to the UN and was the UN’s answer to the uncontrollable main Justice League team. The book lacked the charm of its predecessors, though, an important quality for a team containing characters with very little brand recognition. Furthermore, Justice League International employed more Americans than a team with such a name should have. Eventually, it was cancelled.
Keeping DC’s intentions for the team in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that the team and concept needs a complete overhaul and rebranding in order to function as viable property. My answer to this is a truly international team of heroes appointed by their individual governments to protect the world and to encourage international cooperation. My hope is that the roster would stand alone as being both unique and reminiscent. The roster should also serve to help push certain company-wide thematic agendas in DC’s main titles, i.e. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. So, without further ado, I bring you part one of two of D. J.’s Justice League International.
1. Red Star (Russia)
This good old boy of Mother Russia has the same sort small town patriotic idealism that makes Superman so great. Originally a member of the Teen Titans, this strapping young man’s powers are, like Superman’s, alien in origin. He has super strength and is nigh on invulnerable, but his claim to fame is his red solar radiation manipulation and pyrokinesis. Red Star serves his country as its greatest superhero, but, more specifically, he serves Russia’s people. With the current political state of the country, Red Star could serve as the perfect tool for commenting on a once great nation.
2. Knight (United Kingdom)
This Batman Inc. representative serves as an urban voice of the people. As JLI‘s only hero without superpowers, Beryl grounds the team. Still reeling from the previous Knight’s death, her character arc involves living up to and overcoming the crushing shadow left by one’s elders/heroes/predecessors. She is also one of Batman Inc.’s most widely published members thanks to Grant Morrison‘s deep affection for the character. She even co-starred in her own series written by Paul Cornell for a time. If there was ever a time for Beryl to truly step out of the shadows of obscurity, this is it.
3. Olympian (Greece)
Usually a member of the Global Guardians, the Olympian brings a mythic touch to the team—you know, the whole Joseph Campbell hero’s journey of quests and labors. Powered by the Golden Fleece, this character is the ultimate classical symbol of what it means to be a hero. My hope is that this character could be used for gender liberation in a way similar to how Wonder Woman is. If written correctly, the Olympian could also dispel preconceived notions of masculinity.
And that’s only the first three—my trinity, if you will. Though my trinity is not composed of what I would call DC’s A-team, they do encompass a certain level of thematic similarity to key Justice Leaguers who define the company. Keep checking Popcults for the final seven JLI members and be sure to let me know what you think of my approach to Justice League International so far.