End of Summer

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The Justice League of Erik

By Erik Burnham

Y'know, I've had a problem with the JLA ever since it's been relaunched. Why, you may ask? Is this not THE greatest team comics have ever seen?

Bluntly, no.

First off, the team is too big. Color me crazy, but I like a team that's a bit more manageable in size. The Big Seven wasn't TOO bad; except for problem number two…

…They're too powerful. Think about it – the average abilities of this team en masse. To find a challenge for them on an ongoing basis seems rather ludicrous, and the challenges, well, they usually turn out to be quite similar… there aren't many things that can hold back this collection of the marketing department's dream.

Another thing -- you NEVER feel they're in danger! Why? Because they're the 'Big Guns.' Superman – is he going to come out of this okay? Of course! He's got fifteen books to support, after all. Don't look to the Mortal Bat to lose any steam, he's appearing in seventy-five comics next week. Come to think of it, all of the Big Guns have their own books… and are icons unto themselves.

Again, I may be going out on a limb here, but I actually PREFERRED the Giffen-Era JLA in some ways. Why? It was… well, it was more real to me. These folks could foul things up. They could be scared. They could argue. They could also prevail… and you were never quite sure whether or not they'd make it.

Naturally, being the stars of the book, the heroes, they would triumph… but at what cost was the question. They had their scars, they were not infallible, and they gave me that edge-of-my-seat feeling. These guys could conceivably be offed… or wounded… or replaced.

There's drama, there. Where's the drama in the JLA as of now? When the world is in the greatest peril it's ever been in and will blow up in five seconds unless…?

DC's current JLA is just a selling point. A "cool concept" whereupon we can see all the big folk playing in the same sandbox. I'm ranting, I know, but again – my definition of an interesting tale is when the bad guys can match or surpass the good guys and I don't redouble my already suspended disbelief to enjoy it!

Yes, this is going somewhere.

I'm going to present to you the JLE: Justice League of Erik. My picks, my reasoning, and my goodness! I'm prepping my flame-retardant suit already.

But first, let us examine the JLA (I'll leave it to Waid's promised Big 7 + Plas, though.)

We have, first off, the world's most perfect human being; a master in nearly ever fighting form known to man, a genius detective of the highest order, an Olympic-caliber athlete and rich to boot. Moving on, the fastest man alive. The superhuman monarch of the seas, telepathic as well. An Amazon with gifts from the gods. A man wielding the most powerful weapon in the universe; fueled by his limitless imagination. An alien that can change his shape, read and control minds, become invisible and intangible, and match many other powers with this other alien that's on the team… One that leaps tall buildings in a single bound, is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive – when he's comatose… when he's awake? Watch out. Finally, there's another indestructible shape-changer.

My golly gosh! That's one powerful team. Good thing they're dropping the armor-clad genius, the computer genius, the two gods, the angel, and that other vigilante… we might get dizzy.

Now, in contrast, I lay out the template of that OTHER team, The Avengers. Why? Are they not merely carbon-copies of the original JLA?

Not quite.

The Avengers are a fighting unit made up of the neurotic, the powerful, and the not so powerful. One of the beautiful things, though, about that team in contrast to the JLA is – excepting the "Big Three" – these characters are found in only one place… that book with their team name on it. Hey, there's a possibility of growth already. And that they're not major enough to be supporting multiple marketing strategies. And something… might… happen. Drama!

Is it as powerful a team as the JLA? No! When it's raw power you're looking for, you know where to go –it's been debated ad infinitum all across the net… the Avengers would probably get themselves whupped by the JLA (gee whiz, who wouldn't?) But it'd be more interesting, I think, seeing their side of the fight. Heroes needing to beat the odds. Fighting a more powerful opponent. Who knows how things will end up…


That's what the JLA is missing, and my rant has taken us now back to the JLE (you remember what that stands for, right?)

Now, what I've done here is disregarded several other DCU teams and put together what I think would work. Seven members, a couple of Big Guns, and some reservists… and yes, if things get to be too much, they can always call on Uncle Superman to lend a hand.

1 – Nightwing. Hey, I told you I was going to be disregarding teams, didn't I? Dick Grayson is a man nearly on par with his mentor physically and mentally. He can solve mysteries. He can whup up on folks. And he doesn't give off that creepy Oompa-Loompa vibe. I've never bought Batman inside any team. (Perhaps as a consultant – if he had thirty seconds to spare listening to the problem) Bruce's mind works on one track, and that track heads straight into Gotham. If there's a problem that threatens Gotham City that requires the assistance of someone else? Hey – he'll manipulate things his way and go right back to fighting the good fight. Dick, however, is more the team player. He has less of an obsession towards justice and really just wants to save lives. And, I'll say it once more, he wouldn't spook the rest of the team. Now I realize that NW here has his own book; but he's a different animal than Bruce. Plus: he's got money.

2 – The Elongated Man. Hear that? That's the sound of Michael shuffling my article into the pages of Fanzing. Is that why I chose Ralph? Sorry, Mikey, bypassing your power of veto wasn't the reason I threw Mr. Dibney in. The fact of the matter is he's pretty sharp himself; and smart heroes save lives. Ralph's also a seasoned team player that – while his powers aren't amped up to the degree that Plastic Man's are – is still multipurposed. And he's got money, too. (Or, rather, his lovely wife Sue does. Side thought: Do all stretchy heroes marry women named Sue?)

3 – Guy Gardner. Ahem. WHAT?!? Hey, folks – wake up. Guy isn't a hothead anymore; he's done the team thing and is pretty doggone powerful in his own right… sure, the origins of his new powers are kind of ridiculous, but hey! They're powers nonetheless. Guy has matured quite a bit and bonus! The man owns a bar.

So we're up with one non-meta with a brain, one meta with a brain, and one tough meta with a bar. This is starting to get fun! Let's see who's next!

4 – Heroine. Er… who? Well, I'd like to see the return of that wacky H-Dial that one dials HERO on. And it'd be nice to bring some women in on this team, eh? Variety of powers are the bonus here! So a gal who gets one of the H-dials that are floating around. It can be someone new, someone formerly established, or what-have-you… but boy, it'd be neat to see.

5 – Black Canary. Put her in the "JLE", folks… she's another tough customer… not much else I can say here (except too bad for the JSA!)

6 – Flash. Okay, so one of the Big Seven makes it; I couldn't help it. I like the speedster – plus Wally and Mr. Grayson make a pretty good team.

7 – Wonder Woman. Make that TWO of the Big Seven. Truth be told, I very nearly put Superboy in this slot; but Diana's got the edge in power… Plus, why remove SB from Young Justice? Robin should make that jump first and there'd be no need with Nightwing at the helm… what can I say? Also, WW's one of those characters that belongs on a team. Moreso than Superman or Batman, who are more identified with their cities and better – really – as solo operators and/or backup. She has the power, the fighting spirit (she IS an Amazon warrior woman!) And she's a good guiding force for this team.

Now pulling in last, it's the JLE Reserve Squad!

1 – Martian Manhunter – Big Green deserves to be with the team, but I'd like to see him called in only when he's needed and get himself an identity in his own title (if it hasn't been canceled…) How many decades has this guy been around? And how well do you know him? As opposed to Superman, that is.

2 – Blue Beetle. C'mon! We REALLY need a science nut in here, and BB'd make a great consultant on things of that nature. He's really smart, after all. Come to think of it, so would John Irons; so long as he wasn't Steeling any team time… or that little Palmer fella. We need scientists!! Maybe not to do the fighting, but DEFINITELY to do the tinkering!

And finally,

3 – The Creeper. Just kidding. Superman would be the other guy to call when things got hairy, otherwise, leave him to his day job.

Keep these folks in tight with Oracle (not too tough when you have Dick AND Dinah on the team, am I right?) and this Justice League is one I'd dig writing… or at least seeing in print.

This JLA has a good chance at facing down the odds; maybe they'll need help. Maybe there will be failures, from time to time. Once again, good drama. If you throw these guys against a foe the current Big Seven would trounce without breaking a sweat, it'll make it THAT much more interesting. Some big names, some true characters, and some big-time potential for drama.

I like drama.

I think you hear me knocking – rant OVER.

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