The nineties get a lot of flack nowadays from comic fans, and some of it is very well deserved. Many things happened in the nineties that made it a very dark decade for the comic industry, many things we would like to forget happened at all, and some things we just can’t seem to let go of. And pouches, so very many pouches.
For as many reasons as there are to speak in hushed tones when referring to comics in that rather fateful decade, there are many more reasons to shout at the sky in praise. Each Tuesday I discuss the many things that made that decade truly a great time to be a fan. This week, I bring you another reason the nineties weren’t all bad.
Justice League Europe.
JLE actually started in 1989, but for the purposes of this column I’m totally going to ignore that fact.
I’m not going to lie, but JLE was the first Justice League comic I had ever read, and I instantly fell in love with it. I loved the team, loved the humor, and especially loved the artwork by Bart Sears. This was the first work I had ever seen of his, and I have been a fan ever since.
After years of the team’s roster bloating, there were far too many members, so the team was split. The Europe team consisted of Captain Atom, The Elongated Man, Power Girl, Flash (Wally West), Rocket Red, Animal Man, and Metamorpho. Who needs the big guns of Superman and Wonder Woman when you have Captain Atom and Power Girl? The team relocated to France, and hijinx ensued. I mean, they went to night school to learn French for an issue! Metamorpho battled fatherhood! And who could forget the infamous cat cover?
It wasn’t all Bwa-ha-has though, as this series had a lot more action than the main title at the time. The first issue saw the team move into their new headquarters while Captain Atom struggled as the leader of so many clashing personalities. Once settled in, it was time to hunt Nazis, or battle the Global Guardians who want them out of Europe. They even went up against Starro the Conqueror!
It really was a fun series, and the plots by Kieth Giffen were always surprising. Whether written by co-creator J.M. DeMatteis, or Gerard Jones, Giffen was really the ringleader., and he kept us all on our toes.
The team went through a few different phases and reorganizations throughout the book’s 67 issues, becoming Justice League International for the last 17 of them. But at the core the book never changed. It was easily the most entertaining series of its day.
The Breakdowns arc really stands out as one of the best though, with the team battling stand-ins for some of Marvel’s most iconic villains. These villains, the Extremists, consisted of the pastiches Lord Havok/Doctor Doom, Dreamslayer/Dormammu, Gorgon/Doctor Octopus, Tracer/Sabretooth, and Doctor Diehard/Magneto. The 15 issue crossover with Justice League America led to a reorganization of the team, as members left and were replaced.
This new iteration added Hal Jordan, Aquaman, and Doctor Light to the roster, and this team remained, even as the title’s name was changed to Justice League International. Unfortunately, this era had so many creative team changes, and heroes came and went left and right, so consistency was a major problem, and the title was cancelled 17 issues later.
When it was really on, Justice League Europe was a powerhouse of a title, with a perfect mix of laughs and action, and it was one reason it was great being a comic fan in the nineties. Next week, I’ll bring you another.