Monday, August 04, 2008

JLI? Smells more like a repackaged America, to me!
What would happen if the League really went global?

With the Olympic Games kicking off this month, we thought it might be appropriate to reevaluate the notion of the Justice League as international peace keepers!

In the late eighties the League did indeed branch out into several intercontinental franchises. The best regarded among these was the brand spearheaded by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire, which eventually came to be consolidated under Justice League International.

While the teams undeniably boasted a greater quota of internationally derived characters, this diversity was ultimately swallowed by the importance of American pie stalwarts still remembered for the series: Batman, Flash, Guy Gardner, Elongated Man, Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Martian Manhunter.

Perhaps more successful at capturing the international design was the Global Guardians. Inspired by diversity introduced in the Super Friends cartoon, and built with characters who featured in the subsequent comic spin-off, the Guardians boasted characters from Africa, Australia, Greece, England, Japan, and several other nations from around the world. These obscure characters failed, of course, to garner much attention, best noted in many cases for much later appearances.

I can't pretend to be reinventing the wheel, here.
Grant Morrison is a name many will now associate with the Global Guardian properties thanks to works like; JLA, Seven Soldiers, and Final Crisis. The Scot, perhaps because of his own origins abroad, has been vital to reimagining these characters as truly viable properties that help support the makeup of the DCU.
It's difficult to escape Morrison's shadow, in this respect.

By dwelling on the realism of touchstones provided by New York City, Marvel's comics have often garnered attention as the 'relatable' brand for common readers. This focus on regions familiar to the creators, however, has created an extremely wide realm of oversight for the DCU to capitalize upon - done so quite succesfully with titles like Checkmate. So far is Morrison's reach that it even touches this series which delivers contemporary reference to the world fabric of the DCU. It draws upon concepts introduced in 52; most recently the prominent inclusion of one of China's super powered heroes, August General in Iron.

Checkmate dwells largely on the soft-political intrigue of this UN-funded world organization. Shared between superheroes and world intelligence agencies; the Rucka-reinvented Checkmate has successfully carved a niche built on tight character drama, interspersed with rollicking action. It's a well conceived, (if still very American), look at an agency built around concepts of international justice.

For our version of the JLI, I wanted to mindful of potential overlap.
I, of course, feel there's a strong need for a team of international heroes, but in a world where Checkmate operates with many allies of the League, it's important that there be differentiation. Checkmate's strict adherence to certain protocols, along with it's slavish reliance upon the influences of world powers, makes seperating the two teams a fairly simple feat.

Like the well known JLA; this is about conceiving superhuman justice that exists outside the constraints of the law. This is a team carefully designed to apply the same concessions afforded by the JLA - a team not usually officially affiliated with government agencies, despite exibiting the luxury of that degree of trust - to a global stage. In accordance with this ideal a diverse selection of world heroes is required, not only to garner the assurances of suspicious world powers, but to represent concerns broader than that of the conventional League.

Asthetically I would like to overcome the obscurity of some of these characters to build a team that suggests a high level of competence. Obligatory archetypes are overlooked in favour of wide representation and experience that makes them quality players on the world stage. This, of course, is an emotionless process that quickly presents a range of personalities that themselves drive the drama of any would-be JLI series.

I have to admit: We're kinda doing this on the fly, which has made compiling a list with careful consideration difficult. If you'd like something more thorough, you might like to think about commissioning some work, otherwise, feel free to post your own ideal international League or the names you feel were overlooked.
At it's heart this is a broad idea ready-made with backdoors and plug-in ports for expanded concepts. It's the big and bold fun of superheroes, with a hint of naive resolve for certain politically motivated narratives.

Wonder Woman (Diana)
Alternate Affiliations: [Justice League America]
Year One: [1941] Nation of Origin: [Themyscira]
Win Percentage: [42.86%] Cumulative Rank: [#42]

If you've been a long time Infinite Wars reader, you'll probably see some of these choices coming. Following up on ideas discussed previously on the site [Wander Woman]; Wonder Woman steps up to lead my team of International heroes across boundaries and dimensions.

Wonder Woman is a Jill of many trades - so much so, it's almost hard to argue against making her team leader. Her time as a diplomat is vital to maintaining goodwill during the JLI's operations across borders. Wonder Woman's smart enough to know that, while her team willfully exists outside of the law, co-operation and agreement are only going to make their efforts more effective.
However, when bureaucracy and corruption stand in the way of justice, her unwavering dedication and warrior instincts will ensure the team does what's necessary to serve the greater good.

Her brief career in espionage lends a tactical maneuverability that compliments her diplomatic negotiations. Her leadership positions the team to meet threats with the proactive force of an Amazonian superhero strikeforce, or the silent military precision of an intelligence agency. Her broad acquaintance as one of the DCU's tentpole icons rounds out the ability to manage execution of these strategums, including utilizing those recruited into regular membership.

As a member of the trinity, Wonder Woman is vital to maintaining a familiar facade that maintains trust in the public eye. Though related closely with the United States, the star-spangled warrior princess remains removed enough that she can operate in ways other Leaguers never could, also conversing privately with Batman and Superman to assure those within the superhero community.

Rounding out Wonder Woman's contributions to the team is her physical prowess. Comparable to Superman, she more than fills the position regularly held by the Man of Steel with American incarnations of the Justice League. She leads the JLI from the front, providing brains and brawn in their pursuit of justice.

World matters:
Recent indiscretions including the Amazon attack and her public execution of Maxwell Lord mean Wonder Woman will have her political opposition. As a darling of the Justice League, and as one of the most prominent heroes in the world, it's fair to say Wonder Woman can bounce back from this fairly quickly, if she hasn't already. For the Amazon, balancing this harsh justice with public expectation is a crucial role as team leader.

This relates to the influences of characters like Batman or Superman, who might not have the trust of other world powers. Batman in particular would prove an unpopular constituent within the team, forcing his role into a relegated advisory position (although, other characters may be inclined to relay information).

Wonder Woman naturally seperates from her trinity counterparts in the formation of this team on principles of justice, also. Despite her diplomacy, a key component to the foundation of Wonder Woman's team would be a sympathy for world affairs, and a pro-active stance on delivering justice. This would continue themes of a strained respect privately held amongst the trinity.

Aquaman (Orin)
Alternate Affiliations: [Justice League America]
Year One: [1941] Nation of Origin: [Atlantis]
Win Percentage: [75%] Cumulative Rank: [#40]

I'm kinda breaking a personal rule here, because those playing along at home will know the classic Aquaman is actually dead. I'd use the JLA: Classified defense, but I'm so carried away with the JLI idea that I'm not sure I could handle squeezing it into a finite, ineffectual series.

The inclusion of Wonder Woman and Aquaman is two-fold: On the one hand; they are seasoned veterans of the Justice League that lend a sense of experience (and familiarity) to both the world of the DCU, and the readers of the comics.
Likewise, whilst benefitting the team with their presence, they also have the opportunity to elevate reputation above the secondary status held to other characters. Aquaman in particular is a brand seemingly perpetually in need of revamp, and as a supporting character, and second-in-command, I'd like to think this is a strong place to start.

Aquaman represents a seasoned competence on this team similar to Wonder Woman, providing strong connections to other parts of the world in a way not often emphasised of his Atlantean removal from America.
He has a similarly commanding regality, sense of harsh justice, and motivation to pursue personal goals, particularly ever present environmental issues.

World matters:
Obviously if this were Orin there'd be matters of his return from the dead and regression from the transformation he underwent when becoming The Dweller of the Depths.
As much as I hate to discount the value of death, the return of Orin does offer the opportunity to focus this Aquaman's attentions more intently on JLI activities, whilst leaving his successor to maintain the specific interests of Atlantis.

That's not to say Aquaman would not bring Atlantean issues with him.
With world affairs providing inspiration for fictionalized undertakings by the team, Aquaman would have particular stake in the continued illegal whaling in the Pacific and Antarctic oceans.

The Knight (Cyril Sheldrake)
Alternate Affiliations: [Ultramarine Corps]
Year One: [1950] Nation of Origin: [England]
Win Percentage: [0%] Cumulative Rank: [#495]

Aquaman and Wonder Woman are here for experience and custodian responsibilities to the Justice League brand. As much as they can be characterized as foreign entities, they hold a very close relationship with the United States, so here is where you get more of the required international flair.

Batman -- lynchpin of the DCU -- is the obvious starting point for any kind of team. The simple fact, however, is that his clandestine and paranoid operations are not palatable to nations who would be concerned about US nationalist motivations, and would rather know their 'enemy' a little closer.
The Knight might not be any more transparent than the hero who inspired him, but the perceived threat of the second-generation Brit hero is far less.

The Knight gets an opportunity to play a developed senior role with the JLI, more so than brief appearances with Morrison's slightly green Ultramarine Corps. While important to maintain a sense of individuality, the Knight does essentially fullfil the Batman role within the team, perhaps even liaising with the Dark Knight in secret, a potential point of conflict for less trusting members of the team.

World matters:
The Knight's association with the Ultramarine Corps brings with it certain world baggage, not the least of which was their formation of an independent nation called Superbia! The very public destruction of this hi-tech floating city, which crashed into Congo as a result of Gorilla Grodd and Nebula Man, is sure to have caused some international concern.

It might be a perceived benevolence of the United Kingdom that helps smooth out the Knight's membership with the team, but an underlying strain of tension would no doubt characterize the JLI's standing in the public eye. The Knight's tactical strengths as a surrogate Batman make him an ideal member for the more secretive missions undertaken by the team.

Though not immediately connected to any ideal or issue, the Knight provides a touchstone for events pertinent to the UK.
As a hero, he observes his teammates with a hint of hoping cynicism, concerned that one of their key roles in the near future may be dealing with a world that witnesses the fall of America as an empire.

Rocket Red
Alternate Affiliations: [Rocket Red Brigade]
Year One: [NA] Nation of Origin: [Russia]
Win Percentage: [NA] Cumulative Rank: [NA]

In a sense, the asthetic of the JLI is more of a superheroing council, than a strictly reactionary presence more conventionally associated with the team. The majority of it's membership should have a stature that elevates them above the foot soldier capacity, providing more of an informative role with expertise in their respective areas and corners of the globe.

It seems necessary to include certain familiar world powers in a concept like this, and Russia is obviously right there among them. Case-in-point: After several events renewed the presence of the Brigade in the DCU; Captain Maks Chazov - current Rocket Red #1 - was inducted as a field operative of Checkmate.
Hindering the Green Lantern's operations within Russian borders was just one of those recent events, harkening to potential tensions within the JLI collective.

With a good many memorable Rocket Red members deceased a new member of the Brigade seems like the most obvious option for the JLI. This relationship may, however, be destined to dissolve, harkening to the potential tensions signified by certain memberships. The Rocket Red's loyalty to Russia might clash with the sometimes manipulative operations of the League, forcing a more suitable freeagent to be found to represent the Soviet interest.

World matters:
There's a strong tradition of calling upon long forgotten affairs to fuel the fictional fires of comics worlds. While tensions between Russia and Georgia might influence interactions within the group, there also remains lingering Cold War references that might also continue to fuel mistrust and paranoia.
The movements of the Rocket Red would likely be a subject of particular interest that Batman might probe The Knight for, unlikely to be able to extract intelligence from Wonder Woman during their encounters.

A Rocket Red member is potentially a vital component to operating with diplomatic freedom within Russian borders. Depending on the development of the character's sensibility, this might even be a potential exploit for the team. There does, however, remain the initial potential for frustration as the Rocket Red continues to regard mother Russia with higher priority than world affairs.

August General in Iron (Fang Zhifu)
Alternate Affiliations: [Checkmate]
Year One: [2006] Nation of Origin: [China]
Win Percentage: [NA] Cumulative Rank: [NA]

As characters in American comic books, we have to admit, despite any international awareness, this remains a concept with a decidedly Western reference base. If the tensions of a Russian member were something to be noted, then no doubt poaching a Chinese member from Checkmate would be a stir.

August General in Iron represents an opportunity for Chinese influence on the team, highlighting a particular brand of suspicion. Like the Rocket Red member, this would be a character attached to long strings of bureaurocracy, influencing the movements of the team which might include presenting a more positive facade to the rest of the world.

World matters:
The popular subject of Chinese espionage and control over media means the free roaming activities of the JLI provide a far greater opportunity to control and influence opinions than from within Checkmate. In some ways it makes a lot of sense for August General in Iron to plant himself within a superhero team, rather than an organization so specifically controlled by an international forum.

Concerns surrounding Tibetan Indepdence would no doubt be a hotbed of tension within the team, particularly given the nature of the group as a force inserting it's will into volatile situations unattended by law enforcement. Internal conflict a-go-go as members debate the necessity of the team's influence in African genocide, Japanese whaling, and other affairs, versus liberating Tibet.

Alternate Affiliations: [Secret Six]
Year One: [1993] Nation of Origin: [Santa Prisca]
Win Percentage: [0%] Cumulative Rank: [#542]

A recent stay with the Society of Supervillains really undermined Bane's credibility as a reformed criminal, but one is almost inclined to put this down to unfortunately inconsistent characterization, rather than a condemnation of character. It wasn't so long ago he was accepting funding from Bruce Wayne, who helped Bane trace his birth father to the Himalayas.

To the delight of the Infinite Wars; Bane showed political motivations during a stay in his native Santa Prisca, where he intervened in election frauds to supress the influence of militia [Checkmate #12]. It's here that we pick up the villain who briefly held membership with the Suicide Squad, and is again to resume activites, this time as a member of the pseudo-villainous, Secret Six.

World matters:
Would-be critics of the JLI wouldn't have to work hard to hone in on the team for harboring a known criminal. Of all the members associated with shady periods, Bane's is the most prominent, even if many of his wars with the Batman remain unknown to public organizations.

Physically imposing, tactically brilliant, and dedicated to ideals, Bane is a fair representative of the team, even if his influence is hampered by the presence of other powerful characters. This in itself could potentially push the character away, who is mostly here to represent South American interests. Resistance to formal affiliation with Checkmate prevents Fire from fulfilling the role she previously held with the Global Guardians.

Rising Sun (Izumi Yasunari)
Alternate Affiliations: [Big Science Action]
Year One: [1977] Nation of Origin: [Japan]
Win Percentage: [NA] Cumulative Rank: [NA]

... Speaking of the Global Guardians -- the first of their membership to join the JLI would, of course, be Rising Sun! You will have recently seen Rising Sun appearing in Final Crisis, suggesting an almost suspicious association with the works of Grant Morrison. This, I assure you, is coincidence.

We probably could've avoided such comparisons if Japanese representation was granted to Kimiyo Hoshi, the female Dr. Light.
I'd cover myself with the thought that these characters might be interchangable as adventures progress, but I admit, I rather like the idea of Wonder Woman leading an entirely male group into a world that might demand that of them. Also interesting is, yes, Morrison's recent characterization of Rising Sun as a frustrated statesman of the Japanese superhero scene.

Delicately building that trait into a sense of a generation gap might be an interesting quality, particularly given the sponsorship of a fairly seasoned group that might not necessarily agree with his curmudgeonous philosophy.

World matters:
Rising Sun would obviously be right at the centre of tensions with Aquaman and Japan, but I'm not sure which way he'd fall. Trying to keep the ship on a superhero tilt, (rather than the pseudo-politics of Checkmate), I see Rising Sun more of a magnet for the strong traditions of Japanese pop culture, rather than another political activist. I do, however, see Rising Sun as a more Western hero, perhaps giving him a more cavalier and adventurous edge than his counterparts.

Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins)
Alternate Affiliations: [Global Guardians]
Year One: [1977] Nation of Origin: [Australia]
Win Percentage: [0%] Cumulative Rank: [#499]

The little brother of the Western powers, it seemed fitting to include Australia in the affair even if their representation is low profile.

In a team of starched and serious personalities, Tasmanian Devil offers experience as a long serving member of the Justice League and Global Guardians, but maintains an important perspective of playful irreverence. This extends from the opportunity to reflect a characterized Australian spirit that is good hearted, bashful, but a little bull headed.

More grounded than the rest of the team;as plays mentor to the youngest member of the group, while also occasionally taking the role of peacemaker, particularly where tensions might build between members.

World matters:
While Hugh Dawkins might be inclined to have an opinion on many issues, his involvement in the team is perhaps the least politically driven. As an open homosexual, issues particularly prevelant in the United States are sure to make him an unsuspecting gay icon. Taking this in his stride, Tasmanian Devil's key value to the team's operations would be as a proficient soldier in his beastial form.

Kid Impala (M'Bulaze)
Alternate Affiliations: [Ultramarine Corps]
Year One: [2005] Nation of Origin: [South Africa]
Win Percentage: [0%] Cumulative Rank: [#502]

Representing Africa, Kid Impala is the least involved member of the team, mentored under the wing of Tasmanian Devil. Following in the footsteps of his Global Guardian father; Impala liaises as part of his education in the superheroing world. As a speedster, he's particularly effective in the field, but also provides a vital connection with African nations the team might meet.

World matters:
Impala connects the team to issues of poverty and violence in the African nations, and is a member sponsored by Wonder Woman. His inclusion, much like many other members, is meant to inspire trust in his particular regions, despite senior member's best efforts to shelter him. Much like Tasmanian Devil, he may find himself a reluctant poster child for political opinion.

ARTWORK: Michael TurnerFlash (Wally West)
Alternate Affiliations: [Justice League America]
Year One: [1959] Nation of Origin: [United States]
Win Percentage: [66.67%] Cumulative Rank: [#20]

Reserve credentials:
The make-up of the JLI lends itself to addition and subtraction, the membership important for their individual contributions as much as their associations with other portions of the world superheroing community.

Flash, as with other prominent members, plays a part-time role in instilling faith in the extention of the Justice League brand. His reserve role includes mentoring Kid Impala and helping him hone his inherited powers of superhuman speed, so he might replace the Flash in situations that require the power. Flash's speed is an invaluable part of stealthy operations within unruly borders.

ARTWORK: Zach HowardGreen Lantern (John Stewart)
Alternate Affiliations: [Green Lantern Corps]
Year One: [1971] Nation of Origin: [United States]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative Rank: [#65]

Reserve credentials:
In our recent interview with Jimmy Palmiotti he made the completely valid point, "This is a giant event in the DCU and how could you not have a Green Lantern involved?" As a reservist Green Lantern not only provides a substantial powerboost, but also intelligence, expanding the team's horizons to the cosmic plane with his role in the Corps.

Ethnic diversity is inevitably an issue, on and off the page, when formulating teams. John Stewart not only engenders a certain goodwill because of race, but for having greater experience than Rayner, temperment than Gardner, and trust than the once Parallax-infected, Hal Jordan.

ARTWORK: Alex RossOracle (Barbara Gordon)
Alternate Affiliations: [Birds of Prey]
Year One: [1967] Nation of Origin: [United States]
Win Percentage: [NA] Cumulative Rank: [NA]

Reserve credentials:
Another reservist; Oracle provides a connection for Wonder Woman and the JLI to an independent wealth of information. Though not a regular member, she is on-call to facilitate any demands that might be required, particularly whenever the team is forced to operate without the assistance of international governments.

ARTWORK: Alex RossBlack Adam
Alternate Affiliations: [NA]
Year One: [1945] Nation of Origin: [Khandaq]
Win Percentage: [85.71%] Cumulative Rank: [#13]

The elephant in the room is the Middle East.
Admittedly, in my haste to get this entry done and dusted, I didn't really stop to consider any obscure characters that might cover the region. Let's face it, for a world League, it is a region that needs an association.

Black Adam's World War III rampage thoroughly rules him out as a public representative of the JLI. However, as a power, the team might be inclined to take him into their ranks after wresting custody away from Checkmate, and/or other organizations who might attempt to incarcerate the troubled foe.

An insanity plea and some fast talking might be what facilitates this, but really, Black Adam plays the silent role of temptation and dissention within the team. Without any subversion Adam acknowledges that his tenure with the JLI will not last, but the potential for his own development as a character is there, as much as he might tempt and lure JLI members toward their greatest risks as a proactive law enforcement agency operating outside conventional boundaries.

As a field agent, Adam proves a powerful and willing inclusion on the team.

Want to know more about the players on our JLI? Follow links in the menu and article to find a universe of heroes - and come up with your own team!

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