Wednesday, November 24, 2010

League Line-Ups That Never Existed (But Should Have) #7

Okay, so here's the cover of DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book (which I discussed at some length here):I like it.

Here's the back cover: I like that too.

Because of the nature of the book—poster-sized reproductions of DC Comics covers as a visual history of the company—all of the images within are full covers, which means there are no panels or grids in it, but the cover uses the basic comic book lay-out of pictures in grids and white gutters of space to evoke the look of a comic book. It also manages to not choose a favorite, and simply put one of the covers contained inside on the cover of the collection.

And by varying the sizes of the panels, the bulk of the cover space goes to six big, partial covers, so relatively little about the images within are necessarily "spoiled."

For our purposes here, in this extremely occasional feature in which I see a group of DC heroes gathered outside of a DC comic book—a group generally selected for their iconic status rather than for their fitness for Justice League service—and wonder aloud, "Hey, would this be a good Justice League line up?", I wanted to take a look at those six panels given prominence.

On the front cover are DC's trinity of Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman, obviously, but they needed three more for the back cover, and there choices are...interesting. No surprise that number four and five are Green Lantern and Flash, really, but Hawkman is a surprise. I would have assumed the dubious honor of DC's Sixth Most Iconic Hero would go to Aquaman (Although Captain Marvel would be a good bet too).

But no, not only does Aquaman not make the back cover of this collection, he's hardly even on the inside. There are no covers form an Aquaman comic book contained within the book, he only appears on the cover of Justice League of America #21, along with 13 other superheroes. (Selections were made based on the historical importance of the images, the books they were attached to, and the people who drew them, more than any sort of fan-favorite or recognize-ability of the characters, which is why Mr. District Attorney, Leave it To Binky, Prez, Hawk and Dove, The Creeper, Angel and The Ape and Weird Western Tales Starring Scalphunter are included, but no issue of Aquaman is).

Instead, that spot goes to Hawkman, who at least has a literal icon to highlight—that little yelling hawk profile on the red oval in the middle of his harness.

Also interesting about the selections are that, because of the way they're cropped, even relatively unflattering images look heroic and exciting (Check out the full Superman cover below), and the particular images chosen.

Whoever made these decisions could easily have found pictures of the various hero-symbols in which those symbols are front and center, the focus of the image. But preference was given to the symbols in action. That's not a picture of Wonder Woman's double-W's, but of them hanging from her tunic-thingee as she poses. The Bat-symbols not just resting on Batman's bat-shirt, but it's caught in the a circle of a flashlight as the guy wearing lurks in the shadows. Superman's S-shield is, of course, flying.

Green Lantern is the only character of these six whose chest-symbol isn't shown; rather, the ring his symbol symbolizes is highlighted, giving him an exterior, detachable hero-icon (And perhaps this speaks to the interchangeability of the Green Lantern hero identity, at least in passing—Green Lantern is the only one of these heroes whose costumed identity and power or skill-set can literally be slipped off the finger and handed to someone—anyone, really—else. Batman can hand me his costume, but I'd just be Caleb in a Batman suit, getting my ass-kicked by the first criminal I tried to apprehend. But if Green Lantern handed me his ring (and I guess if I had the necessary "will power" or whatever), BAM! I'm a superhero!).

So, let's take a closer look at the heroes that this book's cover design posits as the six most highlight-worthy DC characters:

All six have been Justice Leaguers before, obviously, so this is hardly a daring line-up, more questionable for who isn't included than who is. What would you think of this half-dozen superheroes as a Justice League? Flash, like Green Lantern, could be any of 'em really—the cover-designer went with Jay Garrick, but I imagine that has more to do with the quality of the image than the desire to use the original character instead of one of his more popular successors and their more iconic costumes (The only other Flash covers were from Flash #123, The "Flash of Two Worlds" one, and #125 and #129, as smaller reproductions on the back of the featured covers)

I think that would make a fine Justice League, personally, if a little small and homogeneous, and would read a JLA comic with them in it (Depending on the creative team, of course, because I am an old snob).

How about you?


Jacob T. Levy said...

I'd be surprised if there had never been an issue with those six. During the Silver and Bronze Ages you'd often get an introductory page defining a few members as out of commission for that story. J'onn was gone for many years, and Aquaman was often irrelevant for a given mission.

But I guess Hawkman was usually paired with at least one of Atom, Hawkwoman, or (antagonistically) Green Arrow.

Eyz said...

I think I'm one of the few 3-4 people out there who actually likes Hawkman :P
And I'm glad to see him get some little spotlight, even briefly on a back cover!


Kid Kyoto said...

As a JLA line-up I think it would have trouble generating stories. I always think the best line ups need a balance of established characters and new comers. Since you can't really break new ground with Superman et al (especially not in the JLA) you need some new faces who can change and evolve.

Also in a small group like this it's obvious Hawkman would be out of place and underpowered. Everyone but Batman is more powerful than him and Batman is far more useful.

Now for the important question, how's the book?