Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 “Top 10 Justice League Members” article by Jerry Whitworth

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Following “Heart of Justice: The Manhunter from Mars”, columnist Jerry Whitworth offers a similarly Alien Atlas favorable piece for Comic Art Community. His tastes skew toward a very Silver Age/first-in-last-out selection for the top of the team, which I can roll with, especially with an underdog favorite like the Atom making the cut. Whitworth doesn't offer rationales for his rankings, and while they do somewhat mirror the top picks poll by inclusion, the ranking is off. I could almost allow for the Flash, but hell freezes over before Green Arrow outranks Wonder Woman in anything but archery (maybe!) Still, I can't fault his logic in choosing the very best Leaguer ever, as you can see for yourself.


Count Drunkula said...

I approve of all ten members included on this list, but like you I have some issues with their placement. I am perfectly fine with J'Onn getting the number one spot as he was such a stalwart of the team for so long. And cliche as it sounds, he does feel like the heart and soul of the League.

Superman and Batman, however, don't belong in the Top 5 because, well, because individually they are BIGGER than the League. They don't need the League and as often as not they suck up all the oxygen in JLA stories.

I agree that Wonder Woman should be placed higher than Green Arrow, but I also feel he deserves a pretty high place as the first newcomer, the first "elected" member who opened the door to a more inclusive and embracing Justice League. Green Arrow also represents something fundamental about the League that I think is different than the Avengers, and that is the sense of inclusiveness and openness to all heroes. Let's face it, Oliver Queen doesn't bring anything to the League that Batman and Wonder Woman don't bring (yes, I think Diana is probably as good an archer as Ollie). So when Green Arrow joins the club, it's not about what he brings to the table; it's just about him being noble and heroic and wanting to help.

LissBirds said...

J'onn outranks Batman, which I am too stunned/pleased/astonished by, that I can't coherently comment on much else. (I am glad The Atom made the cut--he's one of those heroes who tends to fly under everyone's radar, plus he represents the scientific community.)

I like his reasoning about the proto-Silver Age roots, and I had never thought of it, but the comparison to The Incredible Hulk TV show is an interesting one. The mention of Cyborg as an honorable mention left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because it's very recent. If the criteria is legacy (which is seems to be,) there are plenty of other characters out there to pick from.

Diabolu Frank said...

Like the JLA, the Avengers were made up of the biggest super-heroes their company had available at the time. Unlike the JLA, the Avengers had a team member change identity/costume/powers in the second issue, a member radically alter their suit in the third as another member turned "evil" and left the team, arguably had its most iconic member join four issues in, and then had everyone but that late addition leave the team in the hands of three unproven former villains.

So what I'm saying is that the JLA had seven iconic members officially and somewhat reliable on the team for most published adventures from 1960-1965, with five additions proving even more resilient as the League became less stable in the 1970s (though fractionally less so than the Avengers.) It makes sense to build a top 10 list out of those heroes and Zatanna as most later recruits have come in, served a tour or two, and then cycled out/been replaced by a new incarnation.

As little love as I have for Superman and Batman at this point, their presence defines the JLA more than any other heroes precisely because no other company's super team can have the World's Finest duo. The Super Friends just added Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman to become a de facto JLA. As galling as it is to say about two heroes who did not deign to appear on JLA covers for years, without them, you have quasi-Avengers. It takes five other heroes in JLA: Year One to make up for the absence of the DC Trinity, but especially the big two. Given that he's been a more consistent presence, I could see arguing Batman over Superman, but Supes remains "the" super-hero. His power set makes a bigger difference in who else serves on the League and whom they fight, and scale also defines the League as being in a league of their own. Also, Batman takes a big hit from the Outsiders factor.

I'll give validity to some heroes, like maybe Flash or Green Lantern, outranking Wonder Woman. She's had huge gaps in her service record, and was fairly effectively replaced by Black Canary for a good many years. Any of those four heroes leave a bigger hole in a given League than the negligible Green Arrow. Dinah could and should have substituted for Ollie as the human/liberal voice on the team, plus she brings gender equality.

That having been said, and as much as I like the Atom, Green Arrow rates higher for his being the first new recruit, for being non-powered among giants, and for bringing politics/relevance into the League. The Atom is the obvious bump, and Zatanna the most grievous omission. Zee represents legacy earlier and with far greater resonance than Black Canary, brings a distinct & vital power set to the team, and also stands for the rookies/later additions while still being part of the "classic" era. I'd also drop in Hawkgirl at #11, because it's important to reflect all the deferred/quasi Leaguers and her overcoming second class status to become a more popular member than most, especially her lesser half.

Those honorable mentions stick in my craw. I'm sorry for the lack of ethnic diversity, but John Stewart and Vixen are massively more relevant to that conversation than a Teen Titan thrown into the mix as a quota number. I'm of the mindset that Plastic Man should never have been in the League to begin with, and I'm not sure what he brings to the table, but it sure isn't humor.

will_in_chicago said...

Frank, I find myself agreeing with your picks, even if I am more lenient on Batman and Superman. Zatanna should be included and Vixen and John Stewart are more vital to the League than the Thing with Batteries. (I chuckled when you first used this phrase to refer to Cyborg.)

Diabolu Frank said...

Forgot all about that one. :)