DCs JLI – Dead Characters? Just Love It!A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Dominic Organ
Every 20 or 30 weeks the light of my life, my girlfriend Lynsey (not, as some have speculated, my Blue Beetle costume), will manage to dredge up the enthusiasm to ask a question about comics. My favourite question has to be: "who is your favourite Superhero?" Or if I had to choose another, it would be "Who is the best superhero?" This is, of course, a very subjective question. My response will be different from, Say, Keith Dallas or Ray Tate or any other Soldier in the SBC Volunteers Army. If I were to be asked that question now, I would be torn between Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, though any member of the JLI would qualify. The reason I chose them is because when I was a child, they showed me that it was possible to go out and save the world even though they didn't along with each other. They made me laugh so hard, it hurt, and I know others out there felt the same. So I find it hard to see the treatment of the JLI at the hands of hack writers anxious to hit a nerve with an increasingly desensitized audience by hurting characters who have touched our hearts, if not our heads.
I speak, of course, of Blue Beetle's recent murder in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. It’s not the first time DC has gone after the heroes that made many believe you didn’t have to be able to move a planet to be a hero. Some people reading this article may not be totally familiar with the JLI unless they read the recent issues of Formerly known as the Justice League and JLA:Classified. The JLI was a group of heroes brought together by Max Lord in order to deal with threats on a global basis as opposed to within America. Of course, as time wore on, the situation changed and the group changed, but strangely the dynamic always remained. Giffen and Dematteis had limited choices available for the league as so many of the major heroes were tied up in their own titles and the group originally included big names such as Batman, Black Canary, J’onn and Captain Marvel It wasn’t these big names that made the title though; it was the heroes with the characters: Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Booster Gold and Fire and Ice (who by the writers' own admission were allowed to join because no other writer would touch them). They were the JLI that made me laugh and smile and marvel at their ability to fight villains of far greater power while giving us such hilarious moments as:
-Power Girl's unpopular Cat in the JLE (A joke that still can be seen played on in the JSA today)
-Batman knocking Guy Gardner unconscious with a single punch, contributing to his startling personality change
-J’onn's Oreo addiction
-Booster Gold and Blue Beetle stealing League funds to open a resort on a remote island
-Guy Gardner’s ice skating impersonator
-Darkseid reading Mein Kampf
-Everyone’s favourite "Bwa ha ha ha ha"
And a thousand others any fan could mention. Thrown into the mix were moments of real character development and incredibly poignant stories. Fire’s power changed, and Ice slowly came out of her shell while trying to hold a steady relationship with the boorish Guy. Booster and Beetle learned a lesson after watching a vampire commit suicide, and Maxwell Lord obtained redemption after being used for so long. All these aspects gave us pause, made us look at what had just happened and think "Wow, I’ve got to remember this."
In order to look into the past with such reverie, one must look at the current situation and be dissatisfied. The JLI has fallen incredibly far since those glorious days back in the eighties. Ice is dead, and we have DC’s assurance she won’t be coming back. For those of you who don’t know, she died fighting the Overmaster in a pretty tacky story that Mark Waid ADMITS was a mistake. Guy Gardner was killed in Our Worlds at War, but quickly brought back after fans' outcry (intentional….yeah sure). Booster Gold and Fire are both featured in the cartoon, but you’re lucky if you catch two glimpses of them a year. Relegated to obscurity, you have to remember it’s all about the Benjamins with DC. Nothing else matters but the almighty dollar.
So we come to Blue Beetle and his death. He has been seen most recently in Birds of Prey working with Oracle and fluttering around the edges of the odd JLA story. He also appeared in an early issue of Justice League Unlimited. One of the reasons Blue Beetle was so likeable was his run of the mill-ness. Ted Kord was a technological genius but not the best looking or most athletic or the most heroic guy. He was the guy that I could have been, or you could have been. He was the everyman of the DC universe. What other hero do you know had such a bad weight problem that he couldn’t get his costume down over his stomach? Who harassed Power Girl into a weight losing competition knowing he couldn’t lose? Who nearly wet himself in front of reporters after drinking eight bottles of water? He’s been bankrupt more times than JLA story flops! He’s the lovable failure. For God sake, he’s basically Scottish! So naturally a man who wasn’t actually generating anything other than respect and goodwill for DC would be the FIRST one for the chop. Excellent choice chaps, I wonder if you employ a similar policy with staff, could you get rid of the tosser that came up with this idea? I think a fair number of people would be willing to pay you to do it, and after all, that’s all that matters to you, isn’t it?