Formerly Known as the Justice League

Looking for a fun and funny superhero story? A humor book that doesn’t take potshots at the genre but does character-based comedy that works? Formerly Known as the Justice League is just the tonic you need.

Once upon a time, this creative team worked on the flagship Justice League book. Bereft of big names (except for an occasional Batman appearance), they turned it into the superhero equivalent of a college dorm. Underused characters like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Marvel, Fire, Elongated Man, and Captain Atom were thrown together to save the world, which they frequently did, but along the way, they acted like real young adults. They played pranks and worried about dating a co-worker and screwed up starting their own businesses.

Formerly Known as the Justice League cover
Formerly Known as
the Justice League
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This story reunites both the creative team and characters. In the intervening years, we’ve had a return to the “big gun” Justice League and a turn towards grimmer, bigger scale adventures. Formerly Known as the Justice League provides a nice contrast, a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This light-hearted take on being a superhero is a breath of fresh air that still manages to work as an adventure tale, even if you haven’t read that earlier Justice League run.

The introduction to the collection sets the tone, with a Mike-Carlin-drawn (no, really!) Batman in the style of Sergio Aragones introducing profiles done in the voice of each character. The creators, characters, and readers are all older, more jaded, and and in the case of the heroes, a bit more shop-worn, so that becomes part of the premise: businessman Max Lord reunites the team as the “Super Buddies”, super-heroes for hire.

After Sue and Fire antagonize the guys by rating them on a scale of 1 to 10, the team winds up clashing with Harvard-educated street hoodlums. Much of the humor in the series happens through unexpected contrasts of this type, as when Captain Mary Marvel’s “golly gee whiz” innocence is belied by her amazing abilities. When the heroes are kidnapped by Roulette to fight in her arena, Marvel and Atom battle to the death (under mind control, of course). Then the aliens arrive.

There are a bunch more cameos, all wonderfully fun. The expressive Maguire art is an essential support for the back-and-forth dialogue. Snappy conversation drives the story and the comedy, especially once robot ex-lackey L-Ron shows up to help with recruiting. (A special mention here to letterer Bob Lappan, who quite accurately is credited as “the only person on the face of the planet who can fit all those #$#%$ words on the page”.)

This kind of humor has been missing from the superhero genre. It’s a shame that there isn’t more of it available, but this collection helps fill the laugh gap.

5 Responses to “Formerly Known as the Justice League”

  1. hostile17 Says:

    The humorous contrast preseinted in this book when compared to later grittier tales in the DC universe and the irony of characters like Maxwell Lord and Sue Dibny being in this book when there is very little humor in the controversial tales which would spring in the wake of “Identity Crisis” will not be lost to readers who are up on current DC continuity. Giffen and DeMatteis have made names for themselves writing these kinds of books as Marvel’s “Defenders” later illustrated. A very good TPB if only to read their take on the classic characters such as Beetle, Booster and Mary Marvel.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    It may be worth noting that “Giffen and DeMatteis” is now a BOOM STUDIOS exclusive. Which is to say that Giffern or DeMatteis can write for whoever, but Giffen and DeMatteis will only write for Boom Studios from now on. I recall an interview with Mr Giffen from 2004 where he expressed the belief that working with Marc was the best collaboration he had in comics and he intended to ensure they worked together as much as possible in the future. Or something like that.

  3. Gabriel Says:

    Was excited to see the review as I’m a huge fan of this creative team. Their late 80’s run is my favorite DC collaboration and among my faves of all time, all companies.
    That said, I was indeed very dissapointed when Identity/Infinite Crisis and all those came around and tarnished and practically negated this classic period of DC history. Very sad that these days are gone. Truly a shame.
    Regarding BOOM STUDIOS, anybody out there hear anything that’s coming out by them?

  4. Johanna Says:

    My Boom Studios coverage starts here and discusses the superhero books here.

  5. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Aside from monster books, Boom! has been tackling two other main types of comics: men’s adventure and superhero humor. With the latter, Hero Squared has a special, a three-issue miniseries, and soon, an ongoing series written by the team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, best known for the frat-style humor of Justice League. Hero Squared:X-Tra Sized Special […]




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