As fans of the superhero genre have learned, Marvel might crank out a good live action movie, but it’s Detective Comics that makes a great animation. With the upcoming release of the 13th animation in the Justice League series, we wait in eager anticipation for Justice League: Doom. Until then, let’s do what comic book nerds do best and nitpick.
Justice League: Doom at first doesn’t sound like a proper title. It sounds like a file name that writer Dwayne McDuffie came up with when he started with this piece and never got around to correcting before he passed away last year. For a while I even assumed it was the code name that Batman kept all his Justice Leaguer information under. I do know that for the longest time I couldn’t even see the colon in the title and thought it was just a merger of Justice League of America and Legion of Doom.
Justice League: Doom is based on the comic book series JLA: Tower of Babel, an epic storyline heralded as one of Mark Waid’s best works. Dwayne McDuffie was hired to adapt the storyline for animation, which required many changes and may have lost some of the impact felt in the original.
The first change I saw was the cast. The roster for the Justice League constantly changes but there are some comic book archetypes that need to be seen. So there’s the big three: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Their story hardly ever changes. Then there’s a Green Lantern and The Flash. These two can be interchanged with other incarnations that wear their mantle.
Green Lantern can be switched out with any member of the Green Lantern Corp, but the Justice League tends to use the human ones. This leaves John Stewart, Guy Gardener, Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan; Alan Scott doesn’t count. The Flash is also narrowed down to Barry Allen, Wally West or Bart Allen.
In the original comic, it was Kyle Rayner who wore the ultimate weapon in the universe, while he was still the inexperienced Last-of-the-Green-Lanterns. The speed force was wielded by Wally West, the former Kid Flash who was forever trying to outrun the shadow of his mentor.
For Justice League: Doom, the storyline follows the rest of the Justice League series and uses Hal Jordan and Barry Allen to play the Faster Friends; yeah, they used to have a comic title together with that tag line.
This leaves Martian Manhunter who this time has gone through a slight reboot. The Manhunter now wears more complete clothing that doesn’t match the chest baring Barsoom novel series. This doesn’t change the fact that his real physical appearance and inspiration is a direct lift from that book series. If you see the live action movie called John Carter, then you’ll have a very good idea of what I’m referring to.
So what about the seventh member? The Justice League is usually comprised of several key members. In tower of babel however we saw Aquaman, the worlds most useless superhero, and Plasticman, the shape changing unitard wearing sight gag; didn’t he get the memo to wear the underwear on the outside? Both were replaced with Cyborg, the affirmative action, token superhero.
The Justice League cartoon series had John Stewart who was lord of the green lantern ring, which worked out fine as there was perfect continuity for it. This matched later on with the JLA comics switching out Rayner for Stewart as well. Again, proper as Rayner had to go out and play intergalactic cop in the Green Lantern title. So why Cyborg? Let’s forget that he’s a visible minority with disabilities and the best HMO in the world. I also want to forget that he was originally a thirty something adult that spent a lot of time with adolescent Teen Titans. This brings us to The New 52.
The New 52 is a revamp and relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing superhero books. All of its existing titles were canceled, and in it’s place 52 new series debuted starting at issue #1. Nothing more than a large publishing event that came after the Flashpoint crossover storyline. Apparently the Flash’s time traveling screwed up continuity so badly it affected the real world. So while titles restarted at issue #1, rebooting all the characters to allow them to be reintroduced in a contemporary manner; for a new generation of readership; the only title that somewhat survived was Green Lantern. They poured a lot of time into the storyline over the last five years, having been the focal point for two big crossovers; Blackest Night, and War of Light. They’d be stupid to abandon that goldmine now, reboot be damned.
While the New 52 is not being received well by older fans, it’s understandable why DC would want to cut ties with a complex continuity that has been in place since the 1930s. Without the reboot, the next logical step would have been to add footnotes to each comic rather than flashbacks and editor notes.
The entire Justice League series of animation that have gone direct-to-DVD seems to support the New 52 as well, as it also neatly ignores a lot of back story. Almost like a game of red rover, Cyborg from the New 52 Justice League was called over.
The best way to describe the current state of things in the DC comic universe right now is to compare it to a lie. Almost as if older nerds were hazing a lesser nerd, trying to convince them that all they held dear would be destroyed. A lot of fast talking would have to be done, based on an inch of truth called back story. So just like such a hypothetical joke, a lot of work had to be done to fill in the gaps of this lie called the New 52.
Hence, why Cyborg is a member of the Justice League now. Aside from the more sinister reasons of his membership, Cyborg is also the bridge between children raised on the Teen Titan cartoons, which is why I wasn’t surprised at the anime influence for The Justice League: Doom.
So there you have it, the current roster for the Justice League. Everyone is annoyed and feels betrayed because Batman essentially could back stab them at any point when he wanted. You can read more on what happened in Final Countdown to Justice League Doom, here. This wasn’t a back stab, it’s what I will now refer to as a Bat stab. Unlike villains, middle-management and high school bullies, Batman never needs to lord this over anyone. As far as anyone else was concerned, they didn’t need to know how screwed they were until he dropped the bat hammer on them. In addition, back stabbing sounds like a last ditch ploy to win, while every plan that Batman has come up with were winning moves, not moves of desperation.
So was this all a good movie by DC? Yes, I wanted to see more of their animation. No, because I felt cheated out of a better storyline. Will I ever watch DC Animations again? It can’t be helped, I’m an addicted comic book nerd. Think of it as solidarity. I’ll be with them no matter what.
So where are the villains and what exactly did Batman do? Stay tuned next time. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel.