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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #199

This is the one-hundred and ninety-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and ninety-eight.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Rube Goldberg was the first person to have his name listed as a definition in the dictionary while he was still alive.


Reader Jeff Ryan asks:

I remember hearing that Rube Goldberg (who I just learned from you was an editorial cartoonist besides the zany-invention doodler) was the first person who had his name become a dictionary definition while he was still alive. (Mr. Bowdler and Mr. de Sade, among others, had to wait until they were dead before bowdlerize or sadistic made it in.)

Don’t know which dictionary the legend refers to, or if they did Rube the solid of printing a picture of a “rube goldberg” device next to the definition.

Rube Goldberg is an interesting historical figure as far as cartooning goes, because while Goldberg was an extremely popular cartoonist for decades, nowadays (and likely the future, as well) he is not known for his actual work at all, but for a humorous type of machinery that even today still bears his name.

Goldberg, at his peak, was doing three or four different cartoon series at a time. One of these cartoon series was drawing different “inventions” that would help people in their everyday life, but would help them in the most convoluted and time-wasting manner possible.

Here are a few examples of classic “Rube Goldberg machines/devices/inventions”…

The film “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” has a notable scene early on with a Rube Goldberg device (it begins at the link below at about the 1:10 mark and goes on for about 2 and a half minutes)…

Starting in 1987, Purdue University has been having a yearly Rube Golberg Machine Contest, where college students enter their best overengineered devices.

Okay, so the term “Rube Goldberg Device/Invention/Machine/Whatever” is certainly one that is ingrained in the public consciousness.

But was it in the dictionary when Goldberg was still alive?

A quick check reveals that yes, “Rube Goldberg” was in the 1961 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a full nine years before Goldberg died. The current Webster’s definition for “Rube Goldberg” is “accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply.”

So that part is correct (I can’t say if they put a picture of a Rube Goldberg device in there with him, but that’s neither here nor there).

But was Goldberg the first person to get this treatment while still alive?

As you might imagine, it’s a bit of a pain to actually demonstrate WHEN words were put into the dictionary, but luckily, I was able to find out some of the new words added to Webster’s Dictionary in the 1879 supplement to the 1864 edition (the first massive Webster’s Dictionary).

Among the words added in 1879 were:
aggressively, alcoholism, bicycle, card-catalogue, carpet-bagger, Darwinian, derringer, dynamite, evolution, Gatling-gun, greenback, helio-type, hrupp-gun, lacrosse, microphone, nihilist, phenomenal,
phonograph, Pullman-car, type-writer.

Of these sampled words (of the 4,000 new words added in 1879), we see three words from the Proper names of actual people. And all three, Charles Darwin, Richard Gatling and George Pullman, were still alive in 1879 to see their names immortalized in the pages of Webster’s Dictionary.

So, well, no, Goldberg was not the first.

Thanks to Jeff for the question and thanks to Stewart Steger for the Dictionary research!

COMIC LEGEND: The Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League run was originally envisioned to be a “Big Seven” series like Grant Morrison’s JLA.


Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League series (which began as Justice League before becoming Justice League International before splitting off into two titles, Justice League America and Justice League Europe) was one of DC’s biggest hits of the late 1980s. In fact, for some time it was DC’s highest-selling monthly title.

The book was known for its unique approach to superhero comics, where the book spotlighted humorous situations mostly, in a sort of situational comedy take on superheroes. Part of this approach was predicated on the fact that Giffen and DeMatteis had characters who were not being used by any other writers, so they had the freedom to do what they wanted with Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice and, to a lesser extent, Guy Gardner and Martian Manhunter (not to mention their own creation, Maxwell Lord).

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So with the great success the pair had on the title, you would think that this was their plan all along.

However, this was actually one of the greatest examples of making lemonade out of lemons that I can think of offhand.

When editor Andy Helfer was tasked by DC Editor-in-Chief Dick Giordano to come up with a new Justice League series to follow up the then-ending Justice League of America series, the idea was to do a complete 180 from what the Justice League had become at that point. A few years earlier, writer Gerry Conway attempted a bit of an “All-New, All-Different” Justice League, consisting of mostly young new characters with a few older (less famous) Justice League members. The group was headquartered in Detroit, and has since become a bit derisively referred to as “Justice League Detroit.” The stories were fine, but the book did not go over too well, commercially.

So now Helfer was to come up with a brand-new Justice League book to launch out of the Legends cross-over (at the same time, a few other new series were launching, such as George Perez’ Wonder Woman and Mike Baron’s Flash, with John Byrne’s Superman having just recently debuted).

This was going to be a bit of a “return to greatness.” The biggest and best superheroes in the DC Universe all on one team together!

Only problem was, the aforementioned reboots? The writers and editors of those books didn’t want their characters involved in the Justice League at that particular point in time.

So suddenly the “Big Seven” was missing Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash.

Aquaman was in creative limbo at the time and HE was made off-limits, too.

So now the “Big Seven” was the “Big Three,” and Helfer was lucky enough to have Denny O’Neil agree to let Batman be a part of the team. Martian Manhunter was a lock. That just left Hal Jordan, and since Helfer was editing Green Lantern, he could make that happen, but with the way things were shaking down, he figured that instead they would use the newer Green Lantern, Guy Gardner.

So then they just filled the rest of the book with as many middle-rung characters as they could, including characters with their own series (Booster Gold, Blue Beetle), new additions to the DC Universe (Captain Marvel, Dr. Light), old members of the League (Black Canary) and just fairly popular middle-of-the-road characters (Dr. Fate, Mister Miracle).

It was then that Helfer and Keith Giffen decided that with this cast, they were much better off trying a different approach than a standard superhero comic, because this cast was not likely to cut it as a standard superhero comic (especially when Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, Dr. Light and Black Canary all soon became unavailable, too – even Batman eventually became unavailable).

So began the series that soon became DC’s best-selling title (before the Batman movie, of course).

And it was almost a full decade before DC let anyone do “the best and the brightest” heroes in the Justice League, and that was good as well!

Thanks to Andy Helfer for being so upfront with the creation of the Justice League series over the years.

COMIC LEGEND: The FBI recently suggested that a comic book character may have been the inspiration for D.B. Cooper.


The D.B. Cooper story is one of the great mysteries in American law enforcement history. As I’m sure you all have heard by now in one form or another (as the legend has made its way throughout popular culture – heck, it was just recently a plot point on Prison Break, for crying out loud!), in November 1974, somewhere between the South end of Washington and the North end of Oregon, a man parachuted out of a plane he’d just hijacked clutching a bag filled with $200,000 in stolen cash.

No one knows what happened to him after that and no one knows who he was BEFORE that.

It’s a remarkable mystery (mostly because it is still a mystery!).

However, recently, of all places, the FBI themselves have posted on their website the possibility that D.B. Cooper was inspired by a comic book character!!

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On the FBI’s official site, the following was posted on Tuesday

[A]s it turns out, a certain Dan Cooper is very much alive—on the pages of a French comic book series that was popular when the hijacking occurred. In the fictional series, Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot Dan Cooper takes part in adventures in outer space and real events of that era. In one episode, published near the date of the hijacking, the cover illustration shows him parachuting.

Seattle Special Agent Larry Carr, who took over the Cooper case two years ago, believes it’s possible the hijacker took his name from the comic book (the enduring “D.B.” was actually the result of a media mistake). That’s important because the books were never translated into English, which means the hijacker likely spent time overseas. This fits with Carr’s theory that Cooper had been in the Air Force.

Carr discovered the comic book connection on D.B. Cooper Internet forums, where fascination with the case is undiminished. The forums are also where Carr found the “citizen sleuths” who volunteered to help us reinvigorate the case.

Even though our investigation has remained open, it doesn’t make sense for the FBI to commit substantial resources to this nearly four-decade-old crime, Carr says. “So if the public can help, by whatever means, maybe we can shake something loose.”

It is interesting to note that the whole “D.B.” part was part of erroneous reporting, and the “B” was never part of his name, he was always just “Dan Cooper.”

As Robert Pincombe reports on his blog (click here to read his piece), it is most likely just a case of the FBI trying to drum up some news interest in the case to help them get people willing to help their investigation for free (and it seems to have worked, as a number of newspapers have picked up the story), but still, it’s fascinating to see the FBI themselves making this suggestion!

Thanks to Robert for suggesting this story. Be sure to check out his blog, ComiCanuck, especially if you’re interested in Canadian comic history.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you know by now, Plume Books (a division of Penguin Books) is publishing a collection of my Comic Book Legends Revealed columns (half expanded “best of”/half new stuff) and it is due out on April 28th.

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to pre-order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you next week!


Didn’t last year’s canceled NBC time-travel series “Journeyman” also deal with Cooper? It’s how the protagonist got a lot of money.

It’d be even more interesting if he were named after Snapper instead of Dan.

It’s amazing how good that Justice League book was, considering all the hoops they had to jump through with who could and couldn’t be used. It’s sad the amount of disrespect that series gets by the Powers that Be at DC right now.

I’d never heard of DB Cooper until Newsradio.

That’s right. Newsradio also revelead who DB Cooper really was…Adam West!

I’d totally forgotten that Steven Root on NewsRadio turned out to be “DB Cooper”! I loved that show.

To explain the DB/Dan confusion: The hijacker was listed as “Dan Cooper” on the flight manifest. In the initial hours of the investigation, the FBI sought out anyone with a similar name in local phone books, and rushed to the house of someone listed as “D. B. Cooper”. That person promptly opened the door and said “Nope, not me, folks” and that was it for that, but the stories had already gone to press blaming “D. B. Cooper” and somehow that name stuck.

Thoughts on that JLA cover: You know, I’ll bet Kyle would have stuck if they’d just let him wear Hal’s costume.

Fun fact: In Britain, a “Rube Goldberg Machine” is called a “Heath Robinson contraption”, for the exact same reason. They had a cartoonist named W. Heath Robinson who did similar cartoons.

I don’t know that Justice League gets disrespect. It’s just now getting collected in a new series of books – which are starting off in hardcover which is quite unusual for material that old.

Oh and by the way – I’ve never heard of Rube Goldberg machines. I thought they were called Heath Robinson machines.

News Radio and Giffen/DeMattais JLA, two things I know I’d love if I just made time for them.

Note to self:Use picture of Rube Goldberg machine as a Shibboleth to root out English spies in midst. If colleague calls it a Robinson machine, send them back to their tea and strumpets…

I think the no respect remark probably was more in relation to how the characters have been treated by DC the last 5 years or so. Maxwell Lord revealed to be evil the whole time, shoots his former buddy Blue Beetle in the head, and then is killed himself. Sue Dibney retroactively raped and then murdered. Ralph Dibnet, dead. Dr. Fate, dead. Barda and Mr Miracle, dead. Martian Manhunter, dead. Until recently, Ice was dead. These characters haven’t received a lot of love from DC lately.



It’s in Dumb and Dumber somewhere, I swear it is! Is someone going to tell me that quoting Dumb and Dumber is no longer comedically acceptable now?

Calling the end of the first Justice League of America series “fine,” even in the sense of acceptable or middling might be a stretch. Vibe and Gypsy were racial caricatures and the stories were in general bland at best.

Some good did come out of the Justice League Detroit, as Sue Dibny was brought in as a regular supporting character of the JLoA for the first time in this period and the series was actually written at the end by JM DeMatteis, the dialoguer of JL/JLI/JLE/JLA.

D.B. Cooper is the best there is at what he does.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 20, 2009 at 9:55 am

Legend 1: Heath Robinson is basically the British Rube Goldberg if you’re American, and Goldberg’s the American Heath Robinson if you’re British. Robinson, like Goldberg, is part of the language at this point, and “Heath Robinson Machine” is a well-established British idiom that’s spread throughout the UK and likely into the Republic of Ireland as well.

Legend 2: In retrospect, the latter issues of Justice League of America v.1 that DeMatteis did probably give an indication of what the “Big Seven” relaunch of ’87 would have looked like. It’s notable that several of the innovations of that run — the especially insane version of Professor Ivo, Despero’s power-up and change into a physical monster — were not only shown off in issues of the Justice League relaunch we got, but have remained the standard depictions of those characters. Similarly, the DeMatteis version of J’onn is in many ways the one we got thereafter, in no small part because the more solemn, alien J’onzz worked better than the Superman-lite he too often was before those late Detroit-era issues. Seriously, there’s lemonade from lemons: J.M. DeMatteis wrote some damned good stories with and about the loserest JLA in memory.

Legend 3: That’s just f*cking cool, man.

Average MC’s is like a TV blooper/
MF Doom he’s like D. B. Cooper/
Out with the moolah…

In that list from the dictionary, “derringer” and “hrupp” are also derived from people’s names (though the real name in the former was actually “Deringer”).

Jazzbo wrote:
“Maxwell Lord revealed to be evil the whole time, shoots his former buddy Blue Beetle in the head, and then is killed himself. Sue Dibney retroactively raped and then murdered. Ralph Dibney, dead. Dr. Fate, dead. Barda and Mr Miracle, dead. Martian Manhunter, dead. Until recently, Ice was dead. These characters haven’t received a lot of love from DC lately.”

Somebody on that cover not mentioned above: whatever happened to Oberon?

And don’t forget Fire: revealed by Amanda Waller to have been an assassin for the Brazilian government.

I believe one movie reviewer once referred to Jigsaw from the Saw films as “the Rube Goldberg of serial killers.” That always amused me, in a darkly humorous sort of way.

“I think the no respect remark probably was more in relation to how the characters have been treated by DC the last 5 years or so. Maxwell Lord revealed to be evil the whole time, shoots his former buddy Blue Beetle in the head, and then is killed himself. Sue Dibney retroactively raped and then murdered. Ralph Dibnet, dead. Dr. Fate, dead. Barda and Mr Miracle, dead. Martian Manhunter, dead. Until recently, Ice was dead. These characters haven’t received a lot of love from DC lately.”

That’s exactly what I meant. I think (and maybe others can elaborate) that at the time, it was pretty well known that a lot of industry people disliked the JLU books and the way they portrayed the characters. Certainly, very few people following with those characters (starting with Dan Jurgens in the post-Giffen/DeMatties issues) understood those books. Nowadays, I think DC likes to use them as characters that still have a core popularity from their JLU days, but aren’t really being used all that much. That’s certainly why Blue Beetle was selected to die.

“And don’t forget Fire: revealed by Amanda Waller to have been an assassin for the Brazilian government.”

Fire was a spy for Brazil going back to her Secret Origins turn in the ’80s. It was just revealed that she had guilt about people that she’d killed. That’s hardly the same as the other things being described.

Have to give props to Ian Punnett, weekend host of the Coast to Coast AM overnight radio show for talking about/investigating D.B. Cooper for months, bringing renewed interest in the case. He has interviewed Special Agent Larry Carr on the show numerous times.

“It was just revealed that she had guilt about people that she’d killed. That’s hardly the same as the other things being described.”

Prior to Checkmate, it had been made pretty clear that her espionage career was not one that required her to kill, nor did she roast large numbers of people alive, nor did she have to endure the indignity of appearing in a Greg Rucka comic.

Brian from Canada

March 20, 2009 at 11:47 am

Is “Rube Goldberg” the first FULL use of his name? Darwinian is a modification, Derringer just a modification of the last name, but “Rube Goldberg” is the one of the rare times I’ve seen both names used together to describe something.

As for the whole Justice League era pre-Morrison, DC modus operandi since the first Batman feature has been to not like their lighter stories of the past because they want to be dark/edgy. Just look back at the press push for the Burton Batman film, which claimed to be closer to the original stories despite the sixties’ TV series having a closer relationship to the comics than the movie did.

The sad part is that those lighter stories always tend to have the better character relationships than the dark ones — Justice League being one example, the new Brave & The Bold series on television another. And it’s *those* relationships which help frame the DCU a hell of a lot better than the bigger stories. Not to mention those types of stories which are a lot more enjoyable because not everyone is off being dark and grim.

Something I like about that immediate post-Legends League that you couldn’t have gotten out of the Big 7 was the way it made use of the integrated post-Crisis DCU. In terms of publishing origins, we had

Blue Beetle and later Captain Atom, from Earth-4
Captain Marvel, from Earth-S
Dr. Fate and later Power Girl, from Earth-2
Mister Miracle and Oberon, from the Fourth World (i.e. 1970s Earth-1 continuity)
Booster Gold, from the 25th Century
Batman, J’onn, Ralph, and Black Canary, from Golden/ Silver Age Earth-1
Guy Gardner, a more modern Earth-1 character
and Dr. Light, a Crisis character

JLI and Suicide Squad were very different books– but to me they’re the two pillars of the post-Crisis 80s, both realizing the potential of the then-new DCU.

Next week the internet EXPLODES when Comic Book Legends Revealed reaches #200!

“Somebody on that cover not mentioned above: whatever happened to Oberon?”

Shhh! For the love of Highfather, DON’T remind DC that I ‘m still around!

Kind regards,
Kooey Kooey Kooey Island

Racial caricatures? Okay, maybe with Vibe. but I never knew Gypsy really was Romani (the correct name for the people we call “Gypsies). I just thought she was into that whole Madonna-esque, thriftstore fashion that was popular back in the 80’s. I can’t even remember what her superpower was at this point.

I heard a rumor that some English guy totally ripped off Rube Goldberg and became famous for it throughout the British Empire. Any truth to the rumor, Brian?

@ Dan Felty:


For those who are interested, that first invention is designed to remind the wearer to mail the letter in his pocket. The bird latches onto the worm and oulls down the window shade, on which is written the reminder to mail the letter.

Are you Doobie Keebler?

I remember seeing a tv show on D.B. Cooper (it may have been the History Channel , or one of the many Discovery channels ) that claimed to show who he was actually . I think he told his wife on his deathbed that he was Cooper . He fit the profile the FBI made of D.B. Cooper. He was in the Military , he came into a large sum of money shortly after the highjacking , and pictures of him of the time looked like the sketches form witnesses descriptions. Did anyone else see this?

The Pee Wee ‘s Rube Goldberg Machine was classic .

For the record,Gypsy could blend in with her surroundings,
like a chameleon.

Am I the only one who thinks the link between the Cooper case and the comic book is spurious at best?

D.B. Cooper was the guy in the bushes who pulled the trigger on the JFK hit. Due to a typical CIA payroll mistake, they forgot to deposit the money in his Swiss Bank account. He had to get paid somehow!


March 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm

“The term ‘Heath-Robinson contraption’ came into official dictionary use in around 1912.”

So…Rube wasn’t even the first convoluted contraption concept cartoonist to have his name listed as a definition in the dictionary while he was still alive. Poor man.

Thanks Vinnie!
I figured it had something to do with mailing the letter, but I couldn’t figure out the final bit.

I understand why several of the characters mentioned became unavailable – however, why was Dr. Light made unavailable? Is there a legend of some sort there?

Also, there was a recent story with the Japanese female Dr. Light that indicated she had been depowered, at least temporarily, at some point (I think this was in the Holiday Special a few months ago). Did this refer to an actual story I missed at some point?

It would be interesting to know the exact timeline regarding the decisions on the 87 Justice League. They must have already decided about the lineup before Legends ended because Superman says something to the effect of “I cant join but will be there if you need me” and I think others give evasive answers as well. Legends was underrated. It pales in direct comparison to the crossover/big series before it, COIE, but it was a great read. I tried to get a trade of it cause my collection’s sense of order become a little “not so much” the past few years and unavailable.

They tried to make the series with the heavy hitters way down the line after the “end” BWAHAHAHA days..and before the Morrison JLA Run. Remember those? They finally put Superman on it (and WW and Flash on one of the books too?) and I remember stories right out of the 70s or as an homage almost. They came after Breakdowns I believe 93-94?. Started tuning out on the books after that, then of course JLA came in and that was great stuff!

Anyway from after Legends to Breakdowns was pretty much my favorite run/runs on any comic. Ive said thise before when the BWAHAHA era has come up but bears repeating for those who do not know; They did do serious stories as well!!

Would the Family Guy breakfast machine count as a Rube Goldberg Machine, even tho it doesnt make breakfast at all but just shoots you?

Peter’s breakfast machine in family guy? More of a kerkovian machine maybe?

@ RD Francis – is happened in Green Arrow – the evil Dr Light attacked her and stole her light energy from her, thereby increasing his own power level. That’s why they needed his remains to repower her.

@Freakshow: It sounds like you’re talking about Duane Weber. The problem is, his fingerprints and DNA didn’t match Cooper’s.


Sigh, now I have to get and read all those Dan Cooper comics to see if there is anything like that on them. Even for a big aviation comics fan like me, those comics always seemed a bit dull…

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I loved those Justice League International books and it’s sad to see that many of the characters are now dead or evil in current DC continuity. Mary Marvel, who was a member of the Super Buddies in “Formerly Known as the Justice League” and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League”, was also corrupted.

The second Dr. Light’s choice of name and costume seems even more inappropriate considering the revelations about the original Dr. Light in “Identity Crisis”. You’d think someone on the Justice League would politely ask her stop dressing like Sue Dibny’s rapist.

D.B. Cooper died in that jump. No doubt, nobody could of made it. They found some of his money by the shore and the real D.B. is gone.

Adam West: Still alive.

I remember the Rube Goldberg-type contraptions from very old cartoons (Betty Boop and such) that I saw as a child. I didn’t even know there was an actual term for them until I grew up. Hmm, I wonder if Goldberg gave his permission for those imitations or was just ripped off?

Yeah, the Bwa-Ha-Ha League was very definitely deconstructed on purpose, Didio and others have admitted so in interviews. I guess they just assumed funny stuff didn’t sell anymore. (note that at the time, a Super Buddies miniseries had been put out and was still popular enough.) So it comes down to Didio and company deciding to go all “Hollywood” (more sex! more gore!) on the characters. Logic, continuity and fans be damned.

And I find the DB Cooper/Dan Cooper connection very strained as well… but then, after all this time they must be running out of ideas. Plus, weirder things HAVE happened in real life…

Tom from West Chester

March 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm

While it obviously doesn’t pre-date Darwinian, et al., Houdini also had his name in the dictionary (by campaigning for it, no less) long before Rube Goldberg.

Minor correction on the Cooper piece: It happened in November of 1971, not 1974.

Regarding the ’87 Justice League relaunch: It’s a testament to Helfer and his creative team that they got the series to succeed despite being populated with so many relatively unknown characters, most of whom had never even been in the League before. I remember thinking how cool it was that Dr. Fate had “graduated” to League status after being in the JSA for so long and hoped it meant he was now an A-lister. But neither Fate nor Captain Marvel stuck around very long. Denny O’Neil was generous indeed to let Helfer use Batman as that brought a lot sense of continuity to the book, plus we wouldn’t have had the memorable Bats vs. Guy scene.

I’ll never understand why the people behind the Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and later Hawkman reboots would not allow their characters to remain League members. Once JLI became a sales success, it would only have given these guys more exposure. Instead, the “revamped” JLA origin with Black Canary only helped to confuse readers, and within a couple of years the characters vetoed from joining the new League or being listed as founders had switched creative teams once again.

In any case, the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI remains one of DC’s greatest and more popular books ever, over two decades later.

About the characters Mr. Cronin said were made unavailable to the League:
I don’t know for sure why they were cut — the U.S. comics versions in my country (Brazil) don’t explain the reasons for that, neither the editors. But I have some guesses:

* Dr. Fate was cut out by J.M. DeMatteis himself, who wrote a mini-series where he was remade into an man-woman amalgam (weird, but I liked it);
* Black Canary was targeted to lose her powers after being tortured by the ninja woman Shado in the Green Arrow mini-series;
* I believe Batman would endure sadness and pain after the “Death of the Second Robin” storyline and that state of spirit was not fit to a humorous comic book;

Am I right about them? And what about Captain Marvel and Dr. Light? Why they had to go, in editorial way? Was some mini-series or monthly title in need of them?

Thank you for the attention, and please forgive my English mistakes! 8^)

I was a big fan of the “funny” Justice League as well. One of the biggest Marvel vs. DC superheroes issues has always been DC’s heroes being more archetype than characters. These issues were very humanizing. (or Martianizing is J’onn’s case). Somewhere along the line the joke got a little stale, but writing comedy is harder than writing melodrama. And was there ever an artist more perfect for a series and its tone than Kevin Maguire?

I loved the Giffen/Dematteis Justice League, and thought the classic lineup also — maybe by accident — was a nice snapshot for a couple of minutes of DC as a whole:

The Martian Manhunter was the mainstay and one of the first Earth-1 heroes, and of course the Earth-1 Batman had been a longtime League member himself in the original stories.

Black Canary II had ties to both the League and the Justice Society and was, pre-Crisis, a migrant from Earth-2 to Earth-1. Dr. Fate was also from Earth-2.

Captain Marvel represented the Fawcett heroes, and Blue Beetle and Captain Atom were new Charlton acquisitions.

Guy Gardner was introduced pre-Crisis, but he’d received his ring during that miniseries, and Dr. Light II was created by the Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Mr. Miracle and Big Barda (and Oberon) all represented the Kirby corner, and Fire and Ice were characters who’d joined the DCU proper after being introduced in the Super Friends cartoon if memory serves.

And Booster Gold and Maxwell Lord were two of the first new characters created post-Crisis.

This could have all been coincidental, but it worked out mighty well for a while.

Hey, Morrison’s JLA got pulled out from under him almost immediately. Reading that in trade is loony – all of a sudden, Wonder Woman is her mother,

Jason, Fire and Ice Maiden were from the Super Friends comic book, not the cartoon.

The first tpb of the JL/JLI run (A New Beginning) has a big text piece talking about the whole thing. Basically they created a formula that would work regardless of what characters they had to use.


Gypsy was introduced using her “blend-in” powers for petty theft. She lived on the streets with no family or home. And the costume was much more stereotypical than a Madonna homage, with a big skirt and billowy top, covered in patches.

Jacob T. Levy
“Something I like about that immediate post-Legends League that you couldn’t have gotten out of the Big 7 was the way it made use of the integrated post-Crisis DCU.”

You know, I remember saying that to myself waaay back when I first saw that cover by Maguire, I grabbed a little bit of everyone from the DC universe, And you had the archetypes all represented then too even though most of the Magnificent Seven weren’t actually a part of the group.

ah well.. it was really stupid and territorial to not allow superman, wonder woman and flash, etc. on the team back in the 1980s.. I would have actually been a fan of justice league back then if they had bothered to make it about the Big 6-7…

The problem with composite team books like Justice League is that the writers have no control of the really big stars, since they have their own books and their personal plotlines are controlled there. This forces them to focus on the secondary characters, with the Big Guns effectively being guest stars. This isn’t necessarily bad, though- a good writer can works wonders with B or C listers, or even take a plotline from another book ( say, if Superman’s powers get changed) and run with it in interesting ways. It’s more challenging than writing single character books, but it can be done.

The Giffen/Mcguire League may have been silly, but as pointed above, they were also made much more human, more than the blank slate heroes they often were. This is a fact the current DC administration simply didn’t understand.

If there would have been a real leader at DC that person would have have said :”look the big 7 are gonna be part of the new Justice League relaunch or else”.

Johnscr said:

“Note to self:Use picture of Rube Goldberg machine as a Shibboleth to root out English spies in midst. If colleague calls it a Robinson machine, send them back to their tea and strumpets…”

It’s easier to spot we British spies by asking “Who invented television?”

Which reminds me – Was Superman a spy?

I wasn’t aware the second legend was a legend at all. The information about how that League came about is in the first few pages of my Justice League trade, which has the first six issues.

Personally, I feel like they screwed the pooch on not letting the book be about the Big Seven. Then again? The moment they decided Bats, Supes, and WW weren’t founders of the League, I feel like they should’ve rebooted the entire DCU. That was too huge a change to decide, “Well that never happened, but everything else in their histories did!”

I’m so happy DC has restored the big 3 as founders of the League. I’m not so happy that DC has massacred this glorious series, and given in to the half-wits that think characters have to be killed, raped, or turned into an S&M addict to be ‘improved’.

Never mind the humour (and it didn’t always work: see ‘Manga Khan’), The Justice League book was the most CREATIVE monthly comic in the late 80s by DC, andprobably by anyone. The characterization was more rich, the situations more original, and the artwork…my god, the artwork!

For me, I sleep comfortably at night knowing that all this new Blue Beetle/Maxwell Lord/Sue Dibny crap is all happening to Earth-OTHER versions of my favourite characters. Geoff Johns and Dan Di Dio didn’t create these characters, so they have no right to turn them into puppets in their melodramatic smut.

This is probably obvious, but I just noticed that the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League and Peter David’s X-Factor have a lot in common.

I think the no respect remark probably was more in relation to how the characters have been treated by DC the last 5 years or so. Maxwell Lord revealed to be evil the whole time, shoots his former buddy Blue Beetle in the head, and then is killed himself. Sue Dibney retroactively raped and then murdered. Ralph Dibnet, dead. Dr. Fate, dead. Barda and Mr Miracle, dead. Martian Manhunter, dead. Until recently, Ice was dead. These characters haven’t received a lot of love from DC lately.

I know all of that. I just don’t take that as disrespect. They’re using the characters and producing hardcover collections of 20 year old material.

Characters like Vibe on the other hand just get ignored.


I’m a little confused about the claim that Doctor Light became unavailable. As far as I’m aware, the only context in which she was unavailable was to the core JLA book as she was sent off to become part of, and eventually leader of Justice League Europe. I haven’t read every issue, but as far as I know she remained an active member of the Justice League for the entire run of that incarnation.

She only had her powers stolen six months before Infinite Crisis, which didn’t stop her participating in the big event so they retconned her depowering to have taken place in week 2 of Fifty Two.

Some notes/comments on the JLI:
Dr. Light- I tend to doubt Doctor Light “became unavailable”- rather, I think the creators just didn’t want to use her. She was only in the first four issues, after all, and as a very supporting character at that. It is possible that, being a Marv Wolfman-created Crisis character, *someone* had a mini-series proposal in the works for her– but if that was the case, it obviously didn’t pan out. According to both dcugide and my own nearly-complete collection from those days, Hoshi didn’t really appear ANYWHERE in DC Comics except in various JLI and Big Event cameos until she was added to the post-Breakdowns JLE. There she finally got a little character development (even though the meek, insecure (possibly stereotypical) Light was about 180 degrees away from her original portrayal in Crisis as a self-centered egomaniac). Does anybody know if there was actually something planned with the character way back in ’87 that never happened? And whatever happened to her banana-colored uniform?

Capt. Marvel/Doctor Fate- That’s the reason why Captain Marvel was dropped, btw- even though he didn’t get his own series until YEARS after leaving the JLI, there definitely was one in the works (by Roy Thomas, building on his “Shazam: A New Beginning” continuity (which everyone seems to hate, even though I thought it was one of the most emotionally honest portrayals of a boy that age for the time period)) Dr. Fate almost certainly left the team so that Giffen and DeMatteis could have some breathing room to revamp him into a “hir,” but once that new character design was reestablished Dr. Fate was brought back onto the team- until it became clear that the character was about to be revamped AGAIN.

Lineup choices- Jacob T. Levy’s analysis on the character choices was excellent and right on the mark. It’s one I thought *I* came up with, actually- which leads me to believe we both read it somewhere. ;) I’ve always thought that the choice was specifically calculated that way (as it falls in line with Meanwhile columns at the time that described Crisis as being the “opening” of the universe and Legends as being designed to show off the new status quo.)

The ‘Big” Three- I’m going to put myself out there and say that the lemonade-made-from-lemons didn’t only apply to the quality of the book itself, but that the retroactive choice to divorce the “big three” from the origins of the JLA was inspired. JLI (and even to an extent, the Detroit League) always made more “sense” to me as a kid because of that choice, and I was happy to see Superman off the team. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only kid who ever picked up an old issue of the original JLA and wondered why the heck Superman needed all those people around when in his own books he could have defeated pretty much anyone the JLA fought single-handedly- especially in the days when he had a super-intellect, as well (which I assume has been given back to him in the “let’s make Superman just like he was in the Silver Age” era of the Superman books). Honestly- what is the point of having a guy who runs fast, a guy with wings, and a brilliant thinker on a team when Superman does all of that and is better at it? I was glad to see him go. (Frankly, even Green Lantern is too powerful to be on a team, so it made sense to give him a mental handicap). Not being part of a team also allowed Byrne to make Superman what he should always be- separate. The few times he visited the Giffen/DeMatteis team he was there largely to awe the other heroes- which is as it should be. (Even the people running things now used to agree with that, judging by the aborted Superman 2000 proposal.) Retro-retroactively squeezing the Trinity back in as “founders” in one throwaway line in Infinite Crisis was just bad storytelling. If no one has any intention of telling those stories, what is the point of messing with an already established continuity? (No, that’s not hypocritical- when Superman, et al, were taken OUT of the team, it was because their stories were actually being told. We SAW why Wonder Woman and Superman weren’t founders. Do we see, now, why they were? Other than editorial caveat?)

It always surprises me that there are people who STILL refuse to buy JL comics that are weighted toward “second-tier” characters. They’ve all apparently forgotten that the “magnificent seven” weren’t considered all that magnificent when they were first teamed up (Martian Manhunter was hardly considered an icon back in the day). And people who decry the “Detroit league” and the JLI while adoring the satellite era, filled with characters who could not support solo books, are suffering from an intellectual disconnect. Love or hate the JLI, but when it began, five of its ten members (Batman, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Guy Gardner, and Booster Gold) were starring or co-starring in other books. Captain Atom, who was added soon after, had a very long running series, and Dr. Fate and Mister Miracle both ended up with spinoffs that lasted several years. I’d say that’s about as good a ratio as the Satellite-era League had, if not better. In other words, the guy at Wikipedia who referred to this team as “C-LIst” (something I edited out for being WP:POV, of course) apparently doesn’t understand what a C-List is.

You can obviously count me among the many here who think that JLI was a great, great comic- it is easily my favorite of all the JL incarnations over the years, and the retroactive snubbing it has gotten from the overly-nostalgic fanboys running the DCU iis not only unfair, but is also an example of what happens when creatives get their way even when the market doesn’t bear them out. I don’t think it’s ONLY a matter of the ‘grim and gritty” trend, or DiDio thinking that “humor doesn’t sell” Even when JLI was the biggest book DC had, grim and gritty was in full swing, and tt was coming right on the heels of an editorial mandate that finally canceled the last of DC’s non-superhero books. I think it has more to do with the fact that the people who write 95% of any stories featuring the DC icons are all very openly annoyed the COIE happened in the first place- 25 YEARS AGO. Their childhoods/early adulthoods were apparently so traumatized by the loss of the “original” Superman, et al, that they want to make sure everyone realizes what a VERY VERY BAD THING the Crisis was. When the creative head of a company comes out and announces in his column that a main reason he took the job was to bring back a character who was successfully killed and replaced 24 years earlier, there’s no “between-the-lines” reading that needs to be done.

Pretty much the ONLY character from the post-Crisis era that is still getting any love is Booster Gold, oddly enough- and since he has always been intended as a a not-heroic hero, I suspect he’s allowed to go on only to mock the allegedly “awful” the post-Crisis era.

Maybe it’s in an upcoming one I haven’t read yet…but there seems to be a whole legend about the new Dr. Light…..how she came to be ….her entry into the League, followed by her exit, then her return, with a completely different personality, and then shuffled off again when the original was brought back as a rapist. I don’t know if there’s a “question” for that, but it seems like a lot of effort to create a character no one wanted to use (even though I think she’s great). Maybe the question is “did they just keep her around to keep the trademark on Dr. Light?”

Yeah, I don’t know if there’s a “legend” there, M-Wolverine, but she’d be a great candidate for a “What’s the story with…” series about characters who entered with a big splash only to be severely underutilized. Not that such a series exists, but it might be a cool idea.

I doubt it was a trademark thing, because it’s not like there was ever a Dr. Light comic, and the old one never quite went away.

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