Saturday, February 28, 2009

Since their 1960 inception, the Justice League have been the premiere organized crime-fighting unit. Offering selections of some of the DC Universe's finest heroes, the JL's recruitment philosophy has varied to include; regional concern, covert operations, villain-centric obstacles, and the goal to assemble the cream of the crop. The latter arguably makes up the most famous incarnation of the League, constructed to represent versions of the leading corner posts of the DCU, and colloquially known as "the big seven."

Despite their eclectic origins, the Justice League remains popularly associated with it's foundations in the United States. Last year we paused to consider what might be possible if the team were to reinstate the now defunct International branch. Since; Final Crisis has plunged the entire DC multiverse into chaos and forced the many factions of heroes and villains to unite their powers as a single force! Each struggle provided the basis for a potential tangent in the Justice League brand.

Previously we speculated on potential teams representing ideals of; America, Resistance, and Task Force.
In light of developments in Final Crisis, it seemed fitting to go back to the concept of a truly international League, and incorporate some of the characters from the story.

It's no secret that Final Crisis writer, Grant Morrison, hails from Scotland; a fact that has quite probably given him unique vision for utilizing the international heroes of the DC Universe.
Unlike previous attempts by Darkseid to create chaos upon the Earth, his latest attempts to create the Fifth World of men as gods truly came to encompass a global threat. It was the day that evil supposedly won, and while the iconic American heroes were prominently on display, many lesser known characters were given the chance to shine in a way characteristic to Morrison's approach.

As superhero films enjoy growing success, the relevance of their creation to the global zeitgeist becomes increasingly obvious. Often on the Infinite Wars we have discussed the curious fascination of the Phantom's persistent successes in Australia and Europe, making him one of the most significant US creations to be forgotten by American audiences. A fact that again reminds us just how universal the concepts of even severely jingoistic characters, like; Captain America, Iron Man, or Wonder Woman; can be to international audiences.

DC boasts a particularly bouyant cast of world heroes, many of which have been brought to the fore by Morrison himself. In reevaluating the "JLI" concept, we do our bit to remind you of these heroes, and the potential they offer the League.

Aquaman (Orin)
Nation of Origin: [Atlantis]
Alt. Affiliation: [Atlantis]
First Appearance: [More Fun Comics #73]
Year One: [1941] JLA Year: [1960]
Cumulative Rank: [#53] Win Percentage: [60%]
2006: [#34] 2007: [#308] 2008: [#27] 2009: [#22]

As with all the groups we've suggested, there is a reasonable assumption that commercial success rests on some element of familiarity. Unfortunately, the meandering career of Aquaman led to his untimely death in the 2006 publishing cycle, putting to bed a modern history of ridicule and sales driven infamy.

Aquaman's slightly unglamorous powers did little to help the character age in a time where fascination with the mysteries of the deep has dissipated. This sense of parody unfortunately cost DC one of it's most enduring and iconic creations -- one that needn't be as useless as he has sometimes been depicted, in the modern era. One can only assume Morrison, and/or other DC writers, recognised this fact before granting the character two brief and inconclusive cameos in the pages of Final Crisis. Morrison described it as an overdue attempt to bring back an Aquaman we can all understand, leaving elaboration to any subsequent writer who should find themselves charged. This seems in keeping with DC's strategum of reinforcing the classic versions of characters (ie; Hal Jordan and Barry Allen).

For our purposes, it reinstates Aquaman as a character of familiarity to Justice League readers, with a relevance to the world stage. Afterall, is he not a seasoned adventurer and monarch of an entirely different nation?

Honestly, I regard any writer who is given the chance to reshape Aquaman after his reintroduction, with extreme envy. This surely is an opportunity of rare calibre comparable to the exciting reinventions of the eighties. I feel strongly about the potential of the character, and might not be inclined to attach that to a League quite so immediately, but for the purposes of our article series, consider him an experienced and worthy leader. Albeit, one of potential suspicion, given his bizarre adventures as the "creature of the deep" and his supposed death.

Powergirl (Kara Zor-L)
Nation of Origin: [United States]
Alt. Affiliation: [Justice Society of America]
First Appearance: [All Star Comics #58]
Year One: [1976] JLA Year: [1989]
Cumulative Rank: [#73] Win Percentage: [66.67%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#123] 2008: [#52] 2009: [DNR]

Few characters embody "foreign" quite to the extent of Powergirl!
As both a hero of Krypton and an alternate dimension (Earth-2), she is arguably the most removed character of the entire group. That said, she represents once again the ideal of incorporating the familiar to not only make a comic series seem more palatable, but also offer the in-fiction grouping a sense of experience.

Powergirl was mostly absent from Final Crisis, but is set to receive a major push from the publisher with her own solo series, spinning out of her adventures in JSA. What better way to solidify her significance than with a return to a senior role within the Justice League?

Observing the group as an international assembly, of sorts, she not only packs a wallop as a super strong heroine, but also offers representation to the interests of United States whose scrutiny would seem inevitable.

The Knight (Cyril Sheldrake)
Nation of Origin: [Britain]
Alt. Affiliation: [Ultramarine Corps]
First Appearance: [Batman #62]
Year One: [1950] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#600] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#260] 2009: [DNR]

An obvious stand-in for Batman; the Knight brings much more than a mere British perspective to this assembly of heroes. Having served originally as the sidekick Squire to the original Knight, Cyril Sheldrake is as much inspired by the original Dark Knight, as his mentor. Like all members in the Club of Heroes, he is superbly trained in facets of combat and skill similar to Batman himself.

In a group comprised of big personalities representing equally big countries, it's difficult not to see the Knight as a discending voice of reason. A hero, like his Bat-counterpart, of strong enough character to do what's necessary to further the team's greater objectives, beneath any squabble or diplomacy issues. He's a little taste of the Task Force concept, added to the team for practical concerns that don't include appeasing certain world interests.

Though absent from Final Crisis itself; Knight played a prominent role alongside his fellow Batmen of all nations during one of Grant Morrison's Silver Age inspired arcs. After Batman's apparent death, he also arrived to lend a hand in Gotham City in the early stages of Battle for the Cowl.

August General in Iron (Fang Zhifu)
Nation of Origin: [China]
Alt. Affiliation: [Great Ten]
First Appearance: [52 #6]
Year One: [2006] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Originally part of the same pitch that included Grant Morrison's J-pop culture shocked poseurs, the Super Young Team; August General in Iron and the Chinese group of superpowers, Great Ten, were given the chance to get out of the gates much sooner than their relegated Japanese counterparts. This may have resulted in an absence from Final Crisis, but in no way restricted the character's expansion into the DCU, which indluded a brief tenure with Checkmate as a Bishop.

As one of the looming super-powers of the world, it stands to reason that China's interests would do well to be represented. Since their introduction, Great Ten have been shown to be part of a much bigger network of Chinese presence than imagined prior to their development in 52 (and World War III).

As a seasoned veteran in the role of "super-functionary," the General's metallic hide and mastery over an advanced cutting staff grants the team plenty of muscle in the field. If only the political and ego-driven disagreements the team would inevitably have could be cut as easily by his staff as metal.

Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins)
Nation of Origin: [Australia]
Alt. Affiliation: [Ultramarine Corps]
First Appearance: [Super Friends #7]
Year One: [1977] JLA Year: [1991]
Cumulative Rank: [#604] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#264] 2009: [DNR]

Tas might have been absent from the pages of Final Crisis, but this is one wildman whose credentials cannot be questioned! Holding membership with the Global Guardians, JLA, and Ultramarine Corps, he's a far more relevant voice than his representation might otherwise suggest, with a bite to match his bark, too!

Though Australia's interests in the global economy of superheroes has been relatively minor, their traditional everyman spirit for good humor offers the team a filter of grounding -- an invaluable reminder of the mere mortals they are supposed to protect. As one of the few prominent homosexual characters in mainstream comics, Tasmanian Devil might also be a cypher through which many serious issues of equality and acceptance might be chanelled.

Sonny Sumo
Nation of Origin: [Japan]
Alt. Affiliation: [Forever People]
First Appearance: [Forever People #4]
Year One: [1971] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#145] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [#4]

After appearing in only four issues of Jack Kirby's Forever People, the heroic underground fighter found his way through a crack in his life, returning from the damnation of the Omega Sanction to once again battle the forces of Darkseid!
Final Crisis saw the hero take on a quiet role as surrogate mentor for the already mentioned Japanese pop-heroes of Super Young Team. Now ready to expand out into their own adventures, Sonny is again without a grandiose purpose.

Japan might otherwise be better represented by another hero briefly featured in Final Crisis - Rising Sun - but in the interest of keeping this delightful character alive, why not let him represent his country in this assembly of world heroes?
Not unlike the cast of internationals in the Street Fighter II franchise; Sonny's qualifications really only include strong moral fibre, a quiet dignity, and the ability to harness a portion of the Anti-Life Equation to channel his chi in fashion that grants him increased strength, durability, and unique resistance to elements of Kirby's Fourth World universe.

His tenure seems thoroughly in keeping with a morality that saw him become a great champion of the people in the ancient times he was trapped in. Now, in the modern age, he again has an opportunity to fight the good fight. Besides, I like the idea of he, Tasmanian Devil, and maybe Knight, palling around as slightly less politicized heroes.

Vixen (Mari Jiwe McCabe)
Nation of Origin: [M'Changa]
Alt. Affiliation: [Suicide Squad]
First Appearance: [Action Comics #521]
Year One: [1981] JLA Year: [1988]
Cumulative Rank: [#290] Win Percentage: [50%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#158] 2009: [DNR]

Another who managed to miss out on most of the action in Final Crisis; Vixen has recently enjoyed a regular spotlight in the latest incarnation of JLA. The animal-powered heroine has proven in her most recent outing with the group that she is more than capable of matching up with the great evils that plague the world.

Africa is a vast continent containing just as many of it's own troubles as the rest of the world. Vixen is a mature character with the potential to confront some of these complex situations that have often gone overlooked by major American superhero divisions. Like all the heroes on our list, she's a competent hero in her own right, bringing not only her mystic powers of animal mimickery, but also extensive training in hand-to-hand combat. Above all else, she is a vital channel to communicate the concerns and ideas of the corner of the world she represents.

Rocket Red 01 (Capt. Maks Chazov)
Nation of Origin: [Russia]
Alt. Affiliation: [Rocket Red Brigade]
First Appearance: [Checkmate #22]
Year One: [2008] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Another corner of the world that must inevitably receive representation, if only to allow for an eventual appearance of antiquated Soviet villains, is Russia! While the cold country wasn't spotlighted in Final Crisis, the Rocket Red Brigade have an extensive history within the DCU that includes interactions with the Justice League International branch in the prologue and aftermath of the Cold War.

Captain Maks Chazov; current ranked Rocket Red #1, recently held tenure with Checkmate, granting an immediate relevance to a group already possessing many ties with the UN organization. His suit of hi-tech armor grants a variety of powers, while his dipolmacy as a Russian dignitary offers a positive example for relations between the nation and others, including the United States. Few countries are as well represented in American comics as Russia, and believe me, there's plenty to make up for!

Iman (Diego Irigoyen)
Nation of Origin: [Mexico]
Alt. Affiliation: [NA]
First Appearance: [Superman Annual #12]
Year One: [2000] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Lastly, a character who did appear in Final Crisis, albeit as an untranslated soldier in the army of heroes who united their powers to repell Darkseid's Purifiers. Another armored hero; Diego Irigoyen is a scientific super-genius who earned the attentions of various US agencys, including STAR Labs, where he served as an astronaut.

Possessing an advanced suit of armor of his own design, and courageous moral fibre, he is yet another valued presence of international descent proposed by one of Grant Morrison's projects. Granted, there weren't as many linked to Final Crisis as our other proposed franchise expansions, but that does not diminish the presence of obscure heroes like this.

NEXT: And at the end of a rushed and labored period, we leave our proposition of Justice League expansion behind, anticipating the release of a new Justice League project written by James Robinson. "Justice League" has been downgraded to mini-series status since it's announcement, but looks set to draw upon similar influences from Final Crisis that were focused here. Robinson's team, as first announced, is set to include; Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Supergirl, Batwoman, Captain Marvel, and other. It should be interesting!

No comments: