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Disbanded | Looking Back at the JLA

Written by  Published April 10, 2014 10:55
1984. Thirty years ago, a writer named Gerry Conway tried a big experiment. One that would anger many readers.  In Justice League Annual # 2,  released July 19'1984  Conway DISBANDED the Justice League of America!


The JLA quickly RE-formed out of, as  Conway himself put it heroes who could devote their time to the team, and to be there to handle global emergencies like the just concluded " War Of The Worlds " storyline.  Story-wise , Aquaman decided to disband the League due to many of the members being absent , and thus, unavailable during the crisis. He decides that the League NEEDS to be ready at anytime and anywhere.

JLDetroitAnn2Hank Heywood the Third,  grandson of the original World War Two hero Commander Steele, was one of the first recruited. Commander Steel had wanted his grandson to follow in his footsteps as a hero. Aquaman recruited more new heroes into his fledgling new League. Vibe and Gypsy were both brand new characters, and the Vixen was not too well known herself. Rounding out the team was Aquaman himself, as well as the Martian Manhunter , Ralph " The Elongated Man" Dibney , and his wife Sue, and Zatanna .

Readers at the time were , if not outraged , were certainly upset by the new status quo . " If Superman were needed , and was not available,  what good would VIBE do?  Readers who bought and enjoyed the Justice League of America comic book did so to see , read, and enjoy the adventures of the premier team of DC heroes. Without such characters as Superman , Batman, Wonder Woman, Why bother?

Readership went down. In the close to three years the team lasted,  JLA Annual # 2 October 1984 - Justice League # 261 April 1987,  nothing seemed to pick up sales.  Batman rejoined the JLA after an alien threat in issue # 250 brought him as well as Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary back for one adventure with the new team (So much for only having League  that could be called upon 24/7).  The threat level was ramped up as well. Previous adversaries were the Cadre,  and the royal Flush Gang.  Now, a meaner and much more powerful Destro returned.  The JLA fought a fierce four issue battle in issues # 251 - 254,  against the new God like villain.

jlavibe2Conway used the most HATED member of the new League -- VIBE -- to be the one to save the day.  He manages to extinguish the Flame of Py'Tar - the source of Destro's newfound strength.  The new League made a good showing in DC's epic maxi-series : The Crisis On Infinite Earths. The new League also fought well, but it wasn't enough. One reader wrote in expressing approval for the new team, but suggested the name "Aquaman and the Outsiders !" I doubt that that could have been used.  But, his point was valid.  The series DID last for almost three years with this team.

Maybe if it WERE called something else it would have lasted much longer.

jlaGypsy, for instance, did go on to some prominence in the future. She was a member of the Justice League Task Force, and The Birds of Prey , as well as the short lived super group the Conglomerate.  When the decision came to cancel the series,  writer J.M. DeMatteis ended the run AND the team!!  An old League foe, Professor Ivo creator of Amazo, sent his " sons" (Actually android duplicates of himself)  after the JLA. Vibe is the first to do battle with them. After thinking that he has defeated the android, Vibe makes the fatal mistake of getting too close to the " body."  The android MURDERS Vibe, and leaves a mask of Ivo's likeness behind. Steele is mortally wounded in the next issue, following HIS battle with an Ivo android duplicate. Sensing that there is nothing to be done for his grandson; Commander Steele pulls the plug and allows his grandson to die in peace. The remaining JLAers hunt down Ivo only to find a hopelessly demented villain.  Saddened by the deaths of their friends , the League quietly disbands. Gypsy and Vixen leave a somber Martian Manhunter behind to brood. Thus, setting the stage for the rebirth of the JLA in Kieth Giffen's Justice League #1  February 1987.

JLA Detroit stands as an interesting experiment,  just not a largely successful one.

Bryan Frazier

Bryan W. Frazier has been reading and collecting comic books for the past forty years! He has a love and fondness for the Vintage Comic Books, Comic Strips, Magazines, Books, Toys, TV Shows and Movies, and even radio shows  of the past (paying particular loving attention to the Pop Culture of the 70’s and 80’s! His personal “glory days”). He has two little poochies named Leyna and Layla, and an as yet unfinished novel  that he hope to turn into a series someday. His column is "Old School" and so is he!! He is Bryan W. Frazier -- Mr. Bronze Age!

Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2015 10:21
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