Well in 1985, one of the greatest Comic Events of all time occurred, Crisis on Infinite Earths. The epic event spanned 12 action packed issues written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Perez, with inks by an incredibly talented cast including the great Jerry Ordway. This epic concluded in 1986, and the DC Universe was quietly literally never the same. The end result of the Crisis was that there were no longer parallel earths; the survivors from the multiple earths were all placed on the one and only remaining earth in the DC Universe. This included the recently acquired Charlton Comics characters like Blue Beetle, who was introduced to the DCU in the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Following the Crisis, characters like Superman were relaunched, with a clear well defined origin story in John Byrne’s fantastic Man of Steel 6 miniseries. A little aside here, this was a great way to do this. If you’re going to have say a “Universe Altering Event,” it’s usually a good idea to follow it up with clear cut, well defined origin stories for the characters being changed, as well as say, defining the clear order in which events have unfolded in the new Universe, which has remnants of old past events, as well as new events about to occur. DC did this in the late 80’s by using redefined origins like the aforementioned Man of Steel mini series in conjunction with publishing a 2 part story called “The History of the DC Universe,” done by the same creative team that brought us Crisis, Marv Wolfman and George Perez. The redefined origins and History of the DC Universe series, working together, helped define this new Universe. You’ll recall both of these approaches were noticeably absent in a recent “Universe Altering Event” that happed a couple of years ago.
Anyways, after the Crisis, the next event for the DC Universe was the “Legends” Crossover event. This was an event written by John Ostrander and Len Wein with pencils by John Byrne and inks by Karl Kesel. This was the first event to really help redefine the tone of the new DCU that the Crisis had created. It ran from November 1986 to May 1987, with its conclusion launching the new Justice League series in May of 1987. This mini-series also served to introduce Captain Marvel to the post-Crisis DCU. Now one may look at the cover to issue number one of this new Justice League series and think, man this team is loaded with “B-Listers” and completely dismiss it. Please do not be one of these people; you are simply robbing yourself of one of the greatest and most fun to read eras of the Justice League. The team is made up of Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Mr. Miracle, the new female Dr. Light (she doesn’t stick around long), Blue Beetle, Black Canary, and Dr. Fate (he doesn’t stick around long either). Booster Gold, the (at this time) brand new creation of Dan Jurgens, is added to the team a couple of issues later. Besides, if you are familiar with the team line-up before this Justice League launch, referred to as the Justice League of Detroit, trust me, these guys were a welcomed change, and “A-Listers” in comparison.
Coming out of Legends, the general public is somewhat untrusting of Superheroes and their unregulated power and actions (sound familiar). Except unlike recent explorations of this dynamic, it was actually executed well here in this series. This distrust for the heroes is fueled by TV News Personality Jack Ryder, who in fact is none other than the Creeper. So billionaire and all around nosy guy Maxwell Lord takes it upon himself to become the self-appointed voice of the new Justice League, with his mission to change the reputation and public image of the Justice League with some positive PR. The team eventually adds members like Rocket Red, Captain Atom (another Charlton character addition), Fire, and Ice to the team, and takes on International status, with embassies across the world.
This book was the brain child of a fantastic creative team, with the stories being written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, and art by the great Kevin Maguire. His art starts out fantastic and just keeps getting better as the series progresses. The series has some great humor, but also tackles some top level threats, all the while exploring the dynamic that makes the Justice League, and focusing on a lot of great character development. It’s from this series that we get the great Ted Kord Blue Beetle and Booster Gold dynamic. We see Captain Marvel struggle with his immaturity and feeling unqualified as a member of the league. We also get to see non-stop hilarity from the lips of Guy Gardner, and the team’s subsequent reaction to his “wisdom.” It’s this same run that the historic and fabled moment of Batman punching out Guy Gardner comes from, a one page exchange that is still discussed and chuckled at now 25 years later.
There were a lot of members of the cast who didn’t have their own ongoing series, but they got so much character development in this book, that it wasn’t needed. Each issue usually had a self-contained story, some stories took 2-3 issues, but all introduced plot points that continued and contributed to an ongoing narrative. This style of storytelling is something I really miss, and seems to be absent from most superhero comics today, except for a select few series such as Mark Waid’s Daredevil (seriously people go read that!). Honestly, this is one of my all-time favorite eras of the Justice League, if not thee favorite, despite my favorite character, Superman, missing from the line-up. I’d put my enjoyment and love for this series right up there with Morrison’s Justice League and the great Justice League of America (vo. 1) #200. Imagine my excitement when DC solicited a new Justice League 3000 series with this very same creative team…and then fired Maguire from the project before issue #1 was even shipped. Nice try DC, you almost had me tricked into picking up one of your books for old time’s sake…almost.
This series like all incarnations of the Justice League would have members come and go, but the core dynamic of Guy Gardner, Ted Kord, and Booster Gold, are really what make this series so special. This series also endured its share of name changes, going from just Justice League in issues #1-6, to Justice League International in issues #7-25, before being renamed Justice League of America with issue #26. You can pick up collected editions of this series in the Justice League International volumes #1-4 trade paperbacks at a very affordable price.
Volume 1 collects Justice League #1-6, as well as Justice League International #7
Volume 2 collects Justice League International #8-13, Annual #1, and Suicide Squad #13
Volume 3 collects Justice League International #14-22
Volume 4 collects Justice League International #23-25, and Justice League of America #26-30
I really recommend that you pick up the first trade and give it a look, I’d wager that you’ll find more content and enjoyment in the first 7 issues, than you do in the first 20 of the current Justice League series.