Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Big League part 1

Remember last summer, when I spent ten blogs running through every single member of the Avengers, plus their enemies and supporting cast, in an effort to determine who would and wouldn't appear in the upcoming movie, as well as that one post where I discussed what we definitely wouldn't see? Well, I've been looking for an excuse to try the same thing with DC's Justice League of America, and with the recent announcement that the JLA will be getting a film at some point in the next few years means I finally have one! What's interesting here, is that Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us two sublime Batman films, with a third in the works, and is producing the upcoming new Superman film, seems to be overseeing the whole thing in a producer capacity. Rumour is, he'll supervise most of the solo films which come out before hand, then bring the team together in a JLA film. Chris Nolan, the custodian of DC Comics superheroes on the big screen? Sounds like a plan to me.

Now, while the format of this blog will be identical to my Avengers series (lots of pictures to pad it out and make it look like I worked harder on it than I did), it is a little trickier for me to write. First of all, DC's continuity isn't as straightforward as Marvel's (which at times, is saying something). DC have this habit of rebooting everything when it gets complicated, but, in my opinion, it only leads to more complications, as certain characters who were members suddenly aren't and never have been, others were, but not when they said they were, and some never even existed. It's hard to make sense of. This is one (quite small) reason why I don't read as many DC comics as I do Marvel comics. As such, while I'm by no means dumb when it comes to the JLA, my knowledge of the team isn't nearly as great as my knowledge of the Avengers.

Still, lets give it a go, eh? On with the show! We'll start with one of the more obscure members...

Superman (Kal-El / Clark Kent)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

When the JLA first appeared, in 1960's The Brave and the Bold #28, they were actually already a team. It wasn't until later, in 1962's Justice League of America #9, that the origins of the team were revealed. However, it was swiftly established that the seven founding members (later known as The Big Seven) were DC's seven biggest selling superheroes of the time. Which, quite naturally, included Superman. That being said though, Superman's presence in the book, certainly for the first few years, was fleeting. Writer Gardner Fox didn't want the League to just become another vehicle for Superman and Batman, characters who had been selling well for a good couple of decades already, instead wanting to showcase DC's newer characters (although these were largely revamps of their classic 1940's superheroes, who themselves formed the JSA, or Justice Society of America. But more on them later). Of course, as time went on, Superman became more important to the League, to the point where he was seen as the defacto team leader (a position occupied by the Flash originally). Warner Bros have already announced a new Superman film, produced by Chris Nolan, directed by Zach Snyder and starring Henry Caville as the Man of Steel. His presence in the League movie is a given.

Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

For Batman's early history with the League, see the above for Superman. It's the exact same situation. What's interesting, is that when DC first revamped continuity after 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths, Superman and Batman were no longer counted among the Leagues founding members (neither was Wonder Woman, but that's a whole other story). They were basically written out of the Leagues first year or so of missions, and in fact were said to have joined the team after both Green Arrow and the Atom. But then, only a few years ago, DC gave us Infinite Crisis and 52, both of which changed continuity again. Suddenly, Bats and Supes were both founding members of the JLA again. Though in Batman's case, he's often on the team grudgingly, or to keep the rest of them in line. Batman is the member of the League all the others respect and fear, because he's not just a man. He's the Batman. However, when it comes to the film version of the League, how is this going to play? Well, it won't be Christian Bale playing Batman. This is a good thing, because good as they are, the current Batman films version of the Dark Knight just wouldn't fit in with the rest of the League. So what's the plan? Apparently, once Nolan finishes the third in his current trilogy of Batman films, the franchise will reboot. Again. Nolan will still be running things, but there'll be a new Batman, who will be designed specifically to tie in a little better to the League films. I'm not sold on whether this is a good idea or not, but then there's that fanboy part of me which says "Batman and Superman. On screen. Together. Live action. OHMYGODPLEASEGIVETHISTOMENOWINEEDIT!!!!!!" He's got a point.

Wonder Woman (Princess Diana of Themyscira / Diana Prince)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Right. When the League first formed, Wonder Woman was a founding member. Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, and suddenly, in DC continuity, the League formed before Diana ever left her island home of Themyscira and became Wonder Woman. This left the "original" League without any of DC's holy Trinity, and, crucially, without any female members. So, Wonder Woman was replaced with Black Canary. Yeah, why not. That'll do okay. But, oh, wait, here's Infinite Crisis and 52 again, and once more, Wonder Woman is a founding member, and Black Canary joined later on and... You know, I love these characters. Genuinely, I think they're brilliant. But this kind of thing just doesn't happen with the Avengers! Anyway, regardless, Wonder Woman needs to be in the League film. She's as powerful as Superman, and with her warrior training, she's probably more the League's muscle than anyone else. How she'll appear in said film though? Unsure. There's a live action TV series in production at the moment, starring Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman, but rumour is there'll be a big screen version as well, featuring a different Wonder Woman. It's going to be this version we see in the League film.

The Flash (Barry Allen)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Okay, things get a little simpler now. Phew. Barry Allen was a police forensics scientist who was always late. While working at the station one night, Barry was caught when a lightning bolt struck a shelf of chemicals, which connected him to the mythical Speed Force (no, really) and turned him into the Fastest Man Alive. From their very first appearance, the Flash was the team leader of the League, and was a prominent member right up until he died in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8. Flash's sidekick, Kid Flash, took up the mantle of the Flash, an unprecedented move for a superhero comic at the time, and it's only in the last couple of years that Barry has returned from the dead and rejoined the League. A Flash film has been in the works for a while (though there has already been a not half bad at all live action TV series), so expect this to suddenly get a new lease of life. Flash will be in the League film.

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Basically, he's a space cop who wields a ring that can create anything he imagines, as long as he has the will power. Green Lantern is awesome, and another League mainstay from the beginning. The Green Lantern film is coming out this summer, with Ryan Reynolds in the title roll, but is this the first film of the DC shared universe, or the last one before that happens? To be honest, it kind of depends on how the film performs. If it does well, then chances are that it will be Ryan Reynolds playing GL in the League film. If the film bombs, expect a swift reboot. I hope it does well, but to be honest, I'm still not sold after the footage they've released so far. And the film costume still sucks.

Aquaman (Arthur Curry / Orin)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Yes. Aquaman is the dude who can talk to fishes. He's also super strong and and breathe underwater. Oh, and he's the king of Atlantis. And these days, has a hand made of water. Look, lets be honest, Aquaman is kind of a joke in comics. This is a shame, as he is a character with real potential if used properly. Grant Morrison showed this during his run on JLA, and Mark Waid did some interesting things with him in his run after Morrison and JLA: Year One. The question is, will Aquaman be in a League film? If you are going to leave out any of the big seven, he would be the most likely to not appear. But I don't think that'll happen. I think the real question is whether he'll get a solo venture or not first. With a new series of comics due out soon, written by Geoff Johns, the man who has been doing wonders with Green Lantern for a few years now, don't be surprised if Aquaman has a sudden resurgence in popularity and his own film before Justice League. In which he'll converse with some tuna.

Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz / John Jones)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

The last of the Big Seven, J'onn J'onzz has been with the League more than anyone else. While he can no longer claim to have been a member of every incarnation, he's still logged more time as a Leaguer than the next hero. The last Martian, with powers comparable to Superman plus telepathy and shapeshifting, J'onn also works as a detective, combining some of the best elements of both Superman and Batman. He's a very interesting character, despite an inability to generate enough sales to carry on a solo series in the last two decades or so. I would expect him to appear in the League film, and then, if the reception is good, spin off into his own solo feature.

Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
Joined: Justice League of America #4

I really hope Green Arrow appears in the League movie. Starting out as a very obvious Batman knock off (he's a billionaire playboy with no actual powers, and he had an Arrow Car and an Arrow Cave. Honest), Green Arrow has developed over the decades into a really fun character. Outspoken and opinionated, arguments are guaranteed when Green Arrow's around. Look at his portrayal in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, in which he took center stage a lot of the time. That's what we want to see in a film. Will we see it? There's a chance. If anyone other than the Big Seven are going to appear, you have to say that Ollie's a likely candidate. Fingers crossed.

The Atom (Ray Palmer)
Joined: Justice League of America #14

The Atom is another mainstay of the League who joined in the early days. Like Green Arrow, it's difficult to say whether he'll appear or not, but you have to hope he will. Just 'cos it'd be cool to see him sit in a tiny floating chair above the meeting table, then cling tight to the Flash's shoulder as he runs off at super speed. Sounds fun, no?

Hawkman (Katar Hol / Carter Hall)
Joined: Justice League of America #31

Hawkman is... Well, quite frankly, he's a continuity nightmare. Yes, Geoff Johns has mostly fixed that in the comics now, but I'd still be very surprised if he showed up in a League film.

Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance)
Joined: Justice League of America #74

So, Black Canary was the eleventh person to join the League. Then she was a founder. Then she... Well, we pretty much covered this up there in the Wonder Woman entry. Still, Dinah is fairly key to the history of the Justice League, and has a long, romantic past with Oliver Queen. She won't be a prominent character, but expect her to put in some kind of appearance, especially if Green Arrow's in it. This is good, 'cos, ya know, fishnets.

The Phantom Stranger
Joined: Justice League of America #103

The Phantom Stranger is one of those shrouded in mystery types. Mainly brought out when there are supernatural forces which need fighting, he's usually more of a consultant to the League than anything else. He won't be in the first film, but if we ever get a League film featuring one of the DCU's more supernatural threats, then there's a strong chance the Stranger will appear. Let's hope that happens, 'cos quite frankly, his pulp look is pretty awesome.

Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny)
Joined: Justice League of America #105

He's a stretchy dude. Ya know, like Mister Fantastic of Fantastic Four fame. Elongated Man and his wife play a key part in Identity Crisis, one of the great League stories of modern times, but it's subject matter (a supervillain, Doctor Light, rapes Elongated Man's wife, so the League wipes his memory and turns him into a simpering idiot) isn't something we're likely to see in a League film. Expect a cameo at most.

To be continued...

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