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Abandoned Love: How Morrison Cleared the Deck for His JLA

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This time around, we look at how Grant Morrison cleared the previous Justice League America out of the way for his JLA…

When Gerard Jones’ Justice League America ended with #113 (drawn by Chuck Wotjkiewicz, Will Blyberg and Prentis Rollins), the team of heroes (a hodge podge of established heroes like Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Flash, Power Girl and Green Lantern and less well-known heroes like Nuklon, Obsidian and Ice Maiden) were still together on a team…

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The Mark Waid/Fabian Nicieza mini-series Midsummers Nightmare (with art by Darick Robertson and Hannibal Rodriguez) explains how seven disparate superheroes joined together as the only heroes on Earth who realized that they were under a spell…

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Okay, so that explains why these heroes want to become the Justice League. But what about the heroes ALREADY calling themselves the Justice League?

Morrison had to take them off the deck in JLA #1 (honestly, they really should have disbanded the previous team in the last issue of Justice League America. Making Morrison do it seems kind of odd). His solution is to have them already leaving their spaceship headquarters to let the new JLA move in (JLA #1 was drawn by Howard Porter and John Dell)…

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And then, just to make sure they’re REALLY out of the way, the Hyper Clan show up and blow up their headquarters, with only Metamorpho’s valiant sacrifice saving them…

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And that was it for the old Justice League.

I suppose some folks took issue with the fact that Morrison didn’t really EXPLAIN why the old League had to leave. So he then wrote Justice League Secret Files #1 with Mark Millar (commenter Travis Pelkie theorizes that Millar likely wrote the story pretty much by himself, which could be true. I dunno), which shows the time right before the new League is formed and explains what happens to the old League, but only in the most basic way possible (Porter and Dell drew this story, as well)…

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Really, as you can see, someone else really should have just disbanded the previous League instead of leaving it to Morrison, as he clearly did not want to bother himself with the previous League.

47 Comments

Oh man that Superman mullet looks………..So was the “old” JLA kicked off the satalitte or was it blowed up?

Every time I see mullet head Superman I can’t help but think of Homer Simpson running his fingers through his har going, “You got purdy hair.”

Yeah, that first Hyperclan arc was great (the whole run, really), but you could definitely tell that GMozz was just like “Goddammit, let’s just get these people out of the way so the REAL JLA can start.”

At least he did it with respect. That Metamorpho scene was actually really cool. I didn’t even know who half of those characters were when I read that for the first time, and I was still pretty into it.

Also, in the pages from the previous JLA, is that Power Girl trying to beat up Flash? What the hell is she wearing?

@TJCoolguy

Same here, JLA was the first DC comic I ever read and while I read the whole series in a weekend after I’d researched like every major DC hero on Wikipedia, the only person on the old team I recognized was Metamorpho. And yet, that scene still kicked ass despite me not knowing who these guys were, which is a testament to Morrison’s skill.

And seriously, why the hell doesn’t Howard Porter get more high profile work these days?! I mean, when Dell was inking him in these pages (or Drew Geraci) he looks pretty freaking good. He’s got a clean dynamic style, but then again DC doesn’t seem too fond of cartoony-er styles these days. Marvel should see if they can get him; he may not be a “superstar” like David FInch, but I think it would be a smart move and his style would fit in better on their books anyways.

Travis Pelkie

June 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Well, just to show how much Morrison didn’t care, I do believe that the Secret Files story was actually written by Mark Millar, unless I’m misremembering (or it’s a story that GMozz ghost wrote for Millar).

I don’t know, it works for me that we see that the previous League can’t measure up to the big 7, and can’t face down the big bad, but also that they go out in a heroic way that still leaves the door open for stories to be told with those characters.

How/when did Metamorpho become non-inert? I like how his man juice is a shock absorber.

Also, GMozz referred to this scene (at least obliquely) in a Batman Inc story (post-nu52) with the “dead” group of Outsiders that are in that book that are working a secret mission. There’s a reference to Metamorpho saving the group from a satellite “again”, or something.

Millar co-wrote it with Morrison, so sure, it is very possible that Millar wrote the whole thing and Morrison just got a credit.

JLA #1 was the first story I read with Metamorpho in it. The way he saved everyone’s ass made me an immediate fan of the character, and I started seeking out other comics that featured him. Not bad at all for a scene that was intended to just shove those characters out of the way.

Anonymous, Howard Porter has been working on the digital-first “Superman Beyond” comic. His art style is a bit different these days, but still recognizably his.

same, i was only introduced to metamorpho in that one scene and immediately thought he was a pretty cool character.

Compared to how b-level heroes are treated these days, I’d say Morrison treated them well enough. He didn’t kill any of them off (though I guess technically Metamorpho was; he got better) and never showed them as incompetent. They were clearly out of their league (heh) with this threat.

But yeah, as I said, if something similar was done today, they’d be slaughtered wholesale in gory detail.

Kind of sloppy writing from Morrison, since Metamorpho had done that exact same re-entry from orbit trick at least twice when he was a member of the Outsiders (See the end of the Kobra storyline, for example). But I guess because Mike W. Barr isn’t as popular as Morrison, that doesn’t count.

John Trumbull, Metamorpho just recently did the re-entry from orbit trick. He saved the Outsiders from an exploding satellite, in a story written by…Grant Morrison!!

The eulogy scene in JLA #5, (and now Metamorpho’s quip 15 years later in Batman Inc. #1), makes me think Grant Morrison never wanted to kill Metamorpho in the first place.

Lords knows I hate Morrison.

Glenn Simpson

June 8, 2013 at 9:26 am

BTW, Howard Porter had some sort of accident or medical condition that required him to re-learn how to draw, I think with his opposite hand. I don’t remember the details, but that’s why he went away for a while and why his style looks different now.

The Metamorpho save is a great scene, but yeah, the group should’ve been pre-disbanded; I hate the idea that there are threats an iteration of the League is assumed to be unable to handle – as far as I’m concerned, even if a new JLA isn’t Earth’s most powerful heroes, they step up, and become The World’s Greatest Superheroes.

I’m not really sure what more people could have wanted from Morrison in this transition. I agree completely that the previous League really should have disbanded at the end of the previous run, but for whatever reason, that’s not what happened. That’s not on Morrison.

So instead he had to either a) completely ignore the League that was still existing at that point or b) write them off. So he wrote them off in a way I think was efficient, respectful to the characters, and exciting for readers. His mission was to write a slam-bang first issue of this series in the hopes of making it DC’s new flagship title. That is precisely what he did. Had he spent issue 1 saying goodbye to Fire, Ice Maiden, Nuklon, and Obsidian, I’m fairly certain it would not have been the sales hit that it was.

As for Metamorpho having pulled that same trick before without rendering himself inert — enh. I’m not going to nitpick that. He came back. It got him off the board for a little while. No harm, no foul. Maybe he didn’t eat his Wheaties that day.

I really don’t get all the “they should have just disbanded the League beforehand” complaints. I never read the previous League book, but I thought Morrison’s opening of his first issue with the attack on the old team, The destruction of the orbiting HQ, and Metamorpho’s save were among the best parts of the first issue of Morrison’s run. It provided a great set up for and motivation to the new League and the ease with which they took down the old team did a great job in establishing the scale of the threat. It was a perfect kickoff to Morrison’s run.

What was PG giving Flash a hard time about?

Ultimate Matt

June 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Batman is sitting in that last story.

not only did morrision get rid of the jl so the big guns can take over in a way showing he really just wanted the big play things and guns . including the mullet on supes. but also haveing them told by the spectre to not form the jl yet. when the spectre like batman is never really a team player.

Batman is sitting in that last story.

Editorial error. Nothing like that would happen in the nu52.

His style looks different now because he severed a nerve in his hand some years ago and couldn’t draw any more. He worked as a school bus driver for awhile while he trained his other hand to draw (I think). And now he’s back.

Porter cut a nerve in his drawing hand and had to go through rehab and work on being able to hold a pencil again: http://www.newsarama.com/1176-off-the-dl-the-return-of-howard-porter.html

Travis, Metamorpho came back around Teen Tians/Young Justice: Graduation day and just before Gail Simone took over Birds of Prey.

Porter nearly ruined that JLA run for me. He was awful during that stint. Look at Batman in the page from Secret File #1. It looks like he’s taking a dump. His proportions are always off and those dumb spikes on Batman’s shoulders. I’ll never understand how he was allowed to draw JLA.

His Flash work was much better though.

Travis Pelkie

June 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Oh, that’s right, I have some of those BOP issues with Metamorpho (as written by Beto, I believe).

“Batman is sitting in that last story.”

Probably because Morrison and Millar just don’t get the character. ;)

That’s awesome that Porter was able to come back from something like that. He’s not a favorite of mine, but I like his work well enough, and it’s nice that he was able to get back to doing comics.

Is it sloppy writing, John, or is it having Metamorpho do a thing that he does regularly? (And if Morrison did know about it, isn’t it likely that that was a subtle “hint” that Rex wasn’t really dead, if it’s something he’d done before just fine?) (I’m such a Whorrison!)

I think the odd part about having GMozz disband the old team is because there WAS that mini in between the old series and JLA that brought together the new big 7, so there was opportunity to disband the team prior to the new book. It’s well done here, though.

And while I am of the opinion that it probably was a solo Millar story, I actually couldn’t remember the complete credits, but I did remember that it was Millar involved (you originally hadn’t included Millar as a co-writer). My snarky little comment about it being a story that GMozz ghost wrote for Millar was a reference to that Authority issue.

However, around the time of that JLA Secret Files issue, GMozz and Millar were “co-writing” books and I believe what I’ve read is that some were Morrison, some were Millar, some were co-written, but the Morrison name was getting the sales and Millar was building a rep. Until they stopped being buds.

To add a wrinkle (and I wish I had the issues in front of me):

Didn’t they have yet another comic where they had Martian Manhunter (or one of the other seven) go to all the teams and politely say that they were through?

In particular, I remember Captain Atom and Extreme Justice being told to hang it up pretty point blank by either MM or Wonder Woman. Or else (which is the tone that sticks out as I think about this). It had something directly to do with attacking Bialya, which also resolved the idea of the league being an international sanctioned entity because all sanctioned league activity was canceled after that.

I also know that in Incarnations, it’s made out to be that Batman thinks that the league has no direction and that him and Superman need to take charge, leading to the start of the Morrison JLA (iffy on if that counts in continuity; fun series though).

Clearly they didn’t care at all about resolving the other teams at the time, but it seems like they have several revisions of what exactly happened. It was a mess.

The sound of heroic sacrifice is “WHUTT!” God, I love comics.

The one thing that really bothered me about the way the old JLA was wiped away was that Fire was nowhere to be seen in the story (I think she might’ve gotten some minor mention though). She had still been a member at the end of the prior run and was just mysteriously absent so that she wouldn’t just beat up the Hyperclan being made of fire and all.

It was only after I read the end of the old series that I found out she had been a member still so I was really confused as to how she was left out until I realized it was just to make the Big 7 seem smart.

I thought Metamorpho made his comeback from his “inert” state in the Outsiders series that Judd Winick penned back in 2003.

The one thing that really bothered me about the way the old JLA was wiped away was that Fire was nowhere to be seen in the story (I think she might’ve gotten some minor mention though). She had still been a member at the end of the prior run and was just mysteriously absent so that she wouldn’t just beat up the Hyperclan being made of fire and all.

It was only after I read the end of the old series that I found out she had been a member still so I was really confused as to how she was left out until I realized it was just to make the Big 7 seem smart.

Not only was she mentioned, she was mentioned in the pages shown in this actual piece.

She was sick and lost her powers. Earlier in the issue, a different hero with fire powers also got sick and lost her powers. The Hyper Clan were using their telepathic powers to incapacitate the heroes with fire powers. These mentions early on were intended as hints as to the Hyper Clan’s secret, not to “make the Big 7 seem smart.”

Travis Pelkie

June 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Spoiler
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They were all Frankensteins. FIRE BAD!!!! ;)

akkadiannumen

June 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Yeah, perhaps they should have disbanded the previous league in its own volume. Then again, their defeat clearly served a specific purpose, showing how powerful the villains were. Morrison could have shown them a little more respect but they were all c-listers (not exactly in their prime either) and he had to get rid of them fast so the “new” Leaguers could begin their story. I’d say Morrison did a great job in general, it was an excellent #1.

akkadiannumen

June 9, 2013 at 12:13 am

@TJCoolguy: in the post-Giffen-DeMatteis era, PG (and several of the others) got brand new costumes as part of an in-story reinauguration of the JLE. Her new costume was inspired by Arion (ancient Atlantean sorceror king, iirc) whom she had discovered she was related to (one of the post-COIE continuity corrections to eliminate all the extra kryptonians).

@Black Manta: Flash used to be the horny guy in the JLE and one of his favorite targets for his lechery was PG who tended to treat him like crap (her bad moods, insults and overreactions were part of the joke). I guess it’s a reference to that aspect of their relationship in general and not anything specific.

Morrison’s storytelling is the only reason i read JLA, porter’s art is garbage.

There was a character named “Civet”? What was her power – pooping out expensive coffee?

man I forgot how much I really hated Howard Porter’s art!

Okay, I’ll stand up for Howard Porter.

I liked his JLA work for the most part. His work on the early part of his JLA run was pretty solid. Nothing spectacular, but good, solid, detailed superhero stuff (in a vein similar to Paul Pelletier’s work, actually). But as the book ran on, there was a marked change in his style. Over time his work became less detailed, his figures and faces became looser and a bit more “cartoony” and (most problematic) he seemed to struggle with maintaining consistent figure proportions. It seemed likely that he was adjusting his style to accommodate the time pressure of a monthly ongoing with such a large cast, paring his work down to the bare essentials in order to hit his deadlines. It’s a pretty common occurrence among artists working on their first long-term monthly assignment (or it sued to be, back in the days when artists routinely worked on long-term monthly assignments). Artists like John Romita Jr., Mike Mignola, and Mark Bagley all went through similar transitions.

I can see where the later looser work might be off-putting to some, esp. on a “cosmic” book like JLA but (aside from the proportion issue, which was just bad, the result of rushed work) I liked the looser style of the later issues. It had a bit of a Kirby vibe to it (helped by John Dell’s thick, meaty ink lines, which often looked like they were applied with a paint roller). I think it was a nice complement to Morrison’s writing in the later issues (particularly Rock of Ages where he certainly seemed to be doing a Kirby riff in the writing).

All that said, I do agree that when he resurfaced a few years later on Flash, his overall style was tighter and the work was much more consistent. But his art on JLA added to my enjoyment the book at the time (although I will admit that by the time he hit the Tower of Babel storyline, his work appeared to have deteriorated noticeably).

JC LEBOURDAIS

June 13, 2013 at 4:58 am

I can only agree with Green, that ugly 90′s art brings back bad bad memories. Porter is what turned me off JLA for a long time.

Captain Haddock

June 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

Like Kalorama, I’ll defend Porter too. There were definitely issues with his art (Wonder Woman’s figure, his odd angles, characters mouths WIDE OPEN IN SHOCK AND HORROR when a simple sad face would suffice), but holy crap look at the energy coming out of those pages. Gmozz’s stories,ere so action packed and all over the place (Martians! Angels! Darkseid! Neron! Sandman!) but Porter kept up swimmingly and infused his pages with so much energy that everything looked and felt suitably epic. He could also draw one hell of a striking image, like Superman wrestling Asmodel, Superman pushing back the moon with his electricity powers, Batman confronting the Hyperclan, Aquaman against Starro, Darkseid arrives in the Rock of Ages, etc.
He’s too flawed an artist, in my opinion, to ever be a favorite, but the sheer amount of zing! in his art just helped solidify this as one of the most fun runs in comics I’ve read.

Aha! The bit with Power Girl and Flash was bugging me too, but I found the answer. Earlier in that issue, several League members are captured. The others figure Power Girl could break her restraints if she were mad enough, but she’s been working on her rage problem lately. Fire says they should’ve seen her back in the JLE when Flash used to push her buttons — and that gives Blue Devil an idea. He goes up to her and starts leching about her old costumes, then outright hitting on her, and finally the coup de grace: “Flash told me what you used to do.” Cue massive rage explosion. They escape, and when the teams meet up later, PG goes after Wally for his supposed lies.

Having now read some of the Gerard Jones era of the League, I can see both sides of the Morrison reboot. On the one hand, it’s not a particularly good run. There’s so much angst you’ll think you’re reading X-Men, and the roster changes too fast to keep track of, partly due to excessive crossover between the different League books. (Major plotlines from JLE kept concluding in JLA, for instance.) Everything is too busy — the art, the plots, the cast. You’d certainly never know it grew out of the Giffen/DeMatteis League.

But on the other hand, every incarnation of the League seems to go that way — a strong start with a well-defined team, then too much expansion and too many balls in the air until it all ends in a mess. Equally important is the fact that Jones’s run is as sincere as any comics you’ll ever read. He wasn’t trying to make history like Morrison, but he wasn’t ironic and weightless like Peter David either. He liked the characters (whichever ones he had this week) and did his best to tell good stories with them. His League deserved better than to be literally given their walking papers. In doing that and killing off a bunch of the old villains, Morrison showed some of his bad “celebrity writer” habits. (Why do the best writers often stoop to the most amateurish devices?)

“instead of leaving it to Morrison, as he clearly did not want to bother himself with the previous League.”

Yes. Damn him for making the book relevant again!!

If that’s what you got from reading that quote, then, well, you did a poor job of comprehending what you were reading.

Loved JLA, got those Morrison issues/trade, only missing a few, good times, haven’t read any other story lines to top those as much as I pretty much liked almost every JL issue I got before and after GM and HPorter, closest was the Giffen etc. era, I like the big 7 but it’s also good to read those B and C list characters take up the task of being a JL team.

This GMozz thing is a new one on me. So so great.

I always liked the little touch in this story… Metamorpho is trying to think of a material to use for shielding… at the last minute he screams out “SAPPHIRE!”

Which is not only an excellent choice for heat shielding… but also the name of the woman he loves.

“Andrei
June 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I thought Metamorpho made his comeback from his “inert” state in the Outsiders series that Judd Winick penned back in 2003.”

Yeah that’s where I remember him coming back from, to deal with Shift knocking off his shtick.

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