Monday, 12 September 2011

Justice League International v.s. Justice League International

On the weekend the most magical of things happened. A friend of mine phoned and he was having to pass his comic book collection on to loving new homes. We greatly relocated 100+ of his comics into our apartment. There was a large supply of old school Silver Age Wonder Woman for me (these will show up later), piles of strong female characters popping up through D.C. and since he'd been trying to sell me on it Justice League International  from the 1980s run. Thus thanks to my friends great generosity I bring you a battle of the ages. 1987 Justice League dukes it out against 2011 Justice League reboot.

Series: Justice League International Justice League International
Words: Dan Jurgens Keith Griffen and J.M DeMatteis
Images: Aaron Lopez Willingham
Issue Number: 1 1
Release Date: In reality September 2011 but the cover reads November 2011 1987
Format Comic Comic

The Art

I have no huge complaints about either versions art work. They are both very different but also enjoyable. To steal the wording of the friend who donated us the many comics the relaunch is very photoshop pretty. It is certainly sharper and clearer artwork. However, I don't think through the course of time the relaunch will hold up as anything exceptional.

1980s JLI's art is some what simplistic but holds up well. It would be passable artwork in a modern day comic. So when you consider that it is twenty four years old and can still hold a candle against modern comics? I have to admit I am impressed.

One of the most significant artwork differences I noticed was in how the female characters were drawn.

DC's 1980s Black Canary
Cover of JLI 2011
Putting aside how amazingly 1980's her costume is. Which is really difficult because holy my goodness that is quite the 1980s costume. I'm baffled by how much physical female character (and costume) design has changed.

The reboot female character's show much more skin, have skin tight costumes and some how their boob sizes seem to be growing exponentially. I will give the DC artists credit. Their female characters often still manage to have muscles and abs that would make most men I know stew with envy fitting of someone who is as physically active as they are. It does leave me wondering what that says about how comic books as a sub-group and society views women. If you are interested in BMI and body types in comics I suggest Comparative Sex-Specific Body Mass Index in the Marvel Universe and the "Real" World one day if I have enough free time I would love to do something similar for the DC world to see how the two hold up against each other.

Winner: 1987 JLI.

The Line Up
JLI 1987

JLI 2011

Character Country of Origin Character Country of Origin
Booster Gold American Booster Gold Future America
Batman American Tora Olafsdotter – Ice Norway
Martian Manhunter Martian Mari Jiwe McCabe – Vixen Zambesi (fictional African country)
Dr. Fate American Beatriz Bonilla Da Costa -- Fire Brazil
Black Canary American Gavril Ivanovich – Rocket Red Russian
Guy Gardner American Zhifu Fang – August General in Iron China
Mister Miracle New Genesis (alien planet) Guy Garner American

Winner:  Since it has actual international members outside of aliens? JLI 2011. Though it still has a heavy American bias (especially with the support cast of Batman) and I'm sad to see the lack of a Canadian hero! 

The Actual Story
I have some huge issues with JLI's 1987 story line. A part of those issues probably come out of reading it outside of the time frame it came in. Within the first few pages of the issue there are jokes cracked about low IQs, promptly followed by jokes about soliciting services of a Geisha in Japan, promptly followed by the sexual harassment of Black Canary by one of her team members, promptly followed by gay jokes. These not only age the comic but make it more difficult for modern readers to relate to it.

It also does have some strengths. Black Canary's dealing of the sexual harassment is great. She effectively and quickly shuts down Booster Gold in the span of one panel. It is nice to see a female character do that. The writer also gets huge bonus points for having mentions of StarTrek within the first few pages. My inner Trekkie squealed right away. When the dialogue wasn't pressing my buttons some of it was rather witty and the story line does overall evolve into one that could be taken as a story about other-ing.

Since this issue came out more then 20 years ago I'm not going worry too much about spoilers. But consider this your warning.

There is a very great but very tiny back and forth between the Martian Manhunter J'onn Jonzz and Dr. Fate. When J'onn calls Dr. Fate's disconnection from the awe of new experiences into question as a sign of a lack of humanity Dr. Fate dismisses J'onn as not being human enough. Of course then the othered J'onn ends up being the hero of the issue. As the rest of his team and the civilians around them are taken over by a mind controlling cell J'onn's martian anatomy leaves him resistant to it.

Later he is attacked for his difference and his resistance to the mind control. Over all it was a good story that mostly holds up but a lot of the subtle -ism's contained within the context give me pause.

JLI 2011 on the other hand was much less of a stand alone story. It is in no way self contained and that gives it some major negative points. There were fewer moments of me being horribly offended by it. On the whole it was a good show case of the characters that are joining JLI. It was a great introduction but it felt much more like a prequel then anything else. I also found myself having flash backs to Marvel's avengers. Especially since they are now a UN controlled team. There was some great starts to stories around loss of faith in government. Dissatisfaction with the appropriation of public spaces. And some mention of tensions between different group members but the issue was just too short to flesh anything out. 

Winner: JLI 1987 because it actually did have an entirely self contained story. I think with more relaunch issues they have the potential to go beyond what was done in 1987.

 Overall 1987 wins for now. With a few more issues of JLI 2011 I may revise my views on the story.

Considering I pretty much avoided the Justice League outside of their cartoon the fact that I am planning on now working my way through both quite actively does have to say something.  

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