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Meta-Messages: “Will Anyone Remember Our Justice League?”

In this feature I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

This time around, based on a suggestion from readers Jonathan S. and Sergio S., we take a look at how James Robinson had his characters treat their farewell from continuity right before New 52 in the final issue of Justice League of America…

Now, as many folks know by now, in the Summer of 2011, DC Comics relaunched their superhero line of comics as the New 52, which involved restarting their continuity fresh (while still carrying over some storylines from the previous continuity). One of the most notable changes is the near elimination of “legacy heroes,” which is to say that, take the Flash, for instance. In the previous continuity, there was an older Flash, Jay Garrick, then Barry Allen and then Barry’s protege, Wally West, who grew up to become the Flash himself after being Kid Flash – and then Wally’s protege (and Barry’s grandson), Bart Allen, who then became the Kid Flash. In the post-New 52 continuity, there was a Jay Garrick, but he was a college student on another Earth who had no connection to Barry Allen. There was no Wally West initially, and he certainly was not ever Kid Flash or the Flash. And there was a character named Kid Flash in the pages of Teen Titans, but he, too, had no connection to Barry Allen (he was even still named Bart Allen, but that turned out to not be his real name).

Therefore, some of the characters most affected by the change in continuity WERE those first and third generation heroes, since the New 52 was only spotlighting the second generation heroes (Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, etc.). While there was an Earth 2 title for re-envisioned versions of the first generation heroes (Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, etc.) there initially were no roles for some third generation heroes like Wally West. Similarly, Donna Troy had no place in the New 52. The New Teen Titans essentially did not exist, even if a few of the characters DID exist in some form or another when the New 52 launched (Roy Harper, Dick Grayson, Cyborg and Starfire, for instance).

James Robinson’s Justice League of America was pretty much ABOUT those third generation heroes “graduating” and taking over the Justice League of America, with Dick Grayson as Batman being the leader of the team and Donna Troy being sort of the Wonder Woman of the team and Jade (daughter of Alan Scott) being sort of the Green Lantern of the team and Supergirl being sort of the Superman of the team.

Well, in the final issue of that series before the New 52 (drawn by Daniel Sampere and Wayne Faucher), this version of the League decides to disband (in a clever bit, Robinson spends the first few pages showing the various adventures this League went on that we never got to see, and these were likely all storylines Robinson had planned for the title but never got a chance to write).

Dick Grayson’s reasons for leaving, just by themselves, seem sort of metafictional, as he speaks of the fact that he’ll probably end up going back to Nightwing (which he does in the New 52) and to let the new Justice League be someone else’s problem…

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But the key bit is the end, when it is just Dick Grayson and Donna Troy together, longtime friends, discussing whether people (in this case, talking about readers) will remember this particular version of the Justice League and really, will people remember Donna at all? As she is about to be wiped from continuity (she eventually was re-introduced after a few years of the New 52 in David and Meredith Finch’s Wonder Woman run)…

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Nice moment by Robinson.

Thanks again to Jonathan S. and Sergio S. for suggesting this one! If anyone else has an idea for a Meta-Message, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

32 Comments

I gave up on Robinson’s JLA early on, but that was a neat scene.

I’m sure DC wishes everyone would forget there was ever anyone but the Silver Age versions. Grumble, grumble.

Ah, the new 52. Aka Geoff Johns is out of ideas and tantrums to bring thkngs back to hks childhood status quo.

Well, I’m sure their NEXT reboot will be the one that gets it right. I mean, law of averages here, at some point one of these things has got to stick.

” We did the best with what we were given, and I’m proud” seems like an additional meta-message, because at the time, Robinson was regularly talking about how difficult it was to write JLA with Superman on New Krypton, Batman lost in time, etc. IIRC, the reason he came up with this league line-up of legacy heroes is because he wasn’t allowed to use any of the main leaguers.

I haven’t read JLA since Morrison’s run, so you couldn’t ask me who’s who since then.

I have read Johns’ run of the NEW 52 Justice League, which wasn’t all that bad.

I liked this run. Cry For Justice is as bad as everyone says, but the rest was pretty good. I liked that it focused on the sidekicks and C List characters. Plus I felt that the Mon-El as superman experiment ended too soon, so I liked those few issues of him as a Leaguer.

Given how aggressively DC pushes the Justice League and its spin-offs now, it’s hard to remember there was a time just a few years ago when editorial totally didn’t give a crap about that book. Between them snatching away half of Dwayne McDuffie’s cast and forcing him to rewrite stuff on the fly to better line up with event books and then the big character train wreck that happened in Robinson’s run, it was clear the League was very low on editorial’s list of priorities.

To this day, has it ever been explained what the hell happened to Robinson’s team after the first issue? I remember he had this massive cast with all these great characters like Cyborg, Mon-El, Guardian, Doctor Light, Starfire, and Hal Jordan, and then they all quit the team after like three issues.

I always liked this Justice League line-up: “the ersatz Big Seven,” as I always called them. I thought it was a pity that nobody really gave them much of a chance after the disaster that was Cry for Justice. Robinson’s run got off to a rough start (almost his entire initial JLA roster was gone within three issues), but I felt this era had really started to click. I think it really could have gone on to some great things if the reboot hadn’t happened.

You’ve also just reminded me that Jade and Jesse Quick still don’t exist in the reboot universe and now I’m sad.

LiL, I’ve assumed it’s less about the series and more about the writers—Dwayne McDuffie simply didn’t have the standing at DC that Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns did to get things the way he wanted them.

I’ve read Johns’ run. It’s not bad, but it’s never going to make my list of Greatest Runs either.And it shows some of the problems of his Green Lantern, endlessly moving from Big Event to Big Event.

I also gave up on Robinsons run earlier even though I am a fan of his. Thinking I may go get this issue now though.

I saw the line about some storylines continuing over. I didnt know of any outside Green Lantern. What were the other? Thx

I saw the line about some storylines continuing over. I didnt know of any outside Green Lantern. What were the other? Thx

The Batman titles also had some carry over. In particular, Morrison continued his work on Batman Incorporated into the New 52, and when he killed off Damian, it was reflected in all the other New 52 Bat-books.

But yeah, it was pretty much just those two series that continued stories, which spoke more to how messed up the reboot was, “Everything reboots! Except these two stories that were actually good at the time. How do we continue two stories while rebooting everything else, you ask? The answer is – poorly!”

The Legion of Super-Heroes largely continued as was, too. I think DC was worried that another reboot would finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back (not that it helped, seeing as how both New 52 Legion books were eventually cancelled).

I wonder what in-character justification was used for Donna’s comment about wanting to disappear.

She does have the weirdest story when it comes to disappearing and returning almost at random.

Let’s see…she was created as a side-effect of editorial confusion,

Disappeared for years at a time from the same book that originated her.

Appeared mostly in a team book that itself went on hiatus for years at a time twice.

Lost her powers and was removed from it in a crossover that everyone is attempting to forget, to become a supporting character in another team book that everyone hopes to forget.

Was snatched from that one to become a secondary character in both a book that everyone forgot (Darkstars) and a member of the hastily revamped New Titans, in one of their most difficult to read periods.

Had the misfortune to meet and date Kyle Rayner there and became Mr. Self-Important’s girlfriend.

Lost her powers again.

John Byrne decided that she needed to lose her family and become a WW supporting character again so that he could inflict her some much-needed, confusing tragedy and retconned backstory.

Joined the Titans again.

Died in yet another crossover event in order to mark a reorganization of the Titans and Young Justice books.

Came back in a special tie-in to another event book full of sound and fury and events that feel like they should matter but ultimately do not.

Participated in several group shot scenes in the endless wave of events that was happening at the time. Joined the Titans again somewhere around that time.

And then the JLA. And then the New 52.

No wonder she hopes to disappear of her own volition for once.

I like these pages. For anyone that likes this but gave up on Robinson a while before, check out his recent Airboy mini-series at Image, which was a really wonderful (and funny) commentary on how his career has gone a bit off the rails. I was probably my favorite book of 2015.

I found myself liking this run more and more with time.

Robinson is a fascinating writer for me. Cry of Justice is, indeed, pretty fucking terrible, but the thing about most of Robinson’s work is that yes, he is kind of verbose, yes, his plot and character work may not be up to the level of some of the other English Wave writers (although Starman is a lovely exception), but man, can anyone deny how much love he puts in his work??

I always get the shivers reading this scene. It feels to me that Robinson is also talking about himself. Will people remember these stories? Did I matter? And this is really, really touching to me. It’s obvious to me the great deal of afection Robinson felt for these characters, and I can almost see his set of mind while writing this.

This run could’ve been a lot more (editorial was… complicated at DC those days, it seemed), but as it stands, it still means a fucking lot. I’ll remember your work and this League, Mr Robinson, and I bet many future writers will as well.

I didn’t find Green Lantern all that good at reboot time, having gotten tired of endless big events that didn’t do anything but feed into Johns’ next big event.

I didn’t find Green Lantern all that good at reboot time, having gotten tired of endless big events that didn’t do anything but feed into Johns’ next big event.

I was speaking from their perspective. They felt it was good at the time.

Yes, Cry For Justice is best forgotten, and Sweary Donna was jarring, but with characters like Congorilla and Starman, this turned out to be a very fun run.

Brian, it’s Daniel Sampere, not Dennis.

nice way to end his run on the jl how short it was for who knows what robbins would have really done if dc had not decided to do a full reboot of the universe aka the 52. for robbision might have had a long run of jl.

I bought some deeply discounted hardcovers collecting his run. It was pretty decent but could have been better without a) editorial interference, as noted by everyone else, and b) better art. Mark Bagley is capable of doing good work, but his JLA art wasn’t his best. Other artists who drew the book were worse. The layouts (which could have come from script directions, I don’t know) were often confusing, reminiscent of Bendis’s nonsensical panel flow. That final issue was great, though.

James Robinson’s return to DC got off to a very tough start with his opening Superman arc and Cry to Justice. But I have a real fondness for his Mon-El/New Krypton and JLA stuff, even though Mark Bagley’s artwork on the latter always made my eyes bleed.

“Everything reboots! Except these two stories that were actually good at the time. How do we continue two stories while rebooting everything else, you ask? The answer is – poorly!”

This should be the Nu52 Wikipedia description.

Sadly, the answer to Robinson’s question is “not terribly fondly, at least.”

I do second Third Man’s recommendation about Airboy, though. It’s kind of great and kind of painful because Robinson is obviously a talented writer who is acutely aware of the many times when he has not lived up to his potential. I mean, I feel like between Airboy and his afterwords in the Starman omnibus editions, I have gotten more intimate emotional insight into Robinson than I have into most of my immediate family members. I hope that Airboy paves the way for more must-read stuff from that guy (I understand his return to The Shade was quite good, too, and maybe one day I’ll read his Fantastic Four run, which I’ve heard displays genuine love for the characters and features some good old-fashioned FF action. The $3.99 price tag and relatively light pacing of the first couple issues turned me off at first, though).

Love the idea of the original Teen Titans taking up their mentors roles in the JLA. Adore the idea of Congorilla in the Martian Manhunter seat.

I’m still bitter about the New 52. It’s one of the main reasons I stopped reading monthly comics.

The Shade was good–I picked it up in trade.

” We did the best with what we were given, and I’m proud” seems like an additional meta-message, because at the time, Robinson was regularly talking about how difficult it was to write JLA with Superman on New Krypton, Batman lost in time, etc.

@Mike: to be honest, Dwayne McDuffie had to go through a lot more of this than Robinson. Remember, Robinson was working on the Super-Titles when Superman was on New Krypton and was one of the story architects of that era: he was writing Superman, World of New Krypton (with Greg Rucka), Last Stand of New Krypton and War of the Supermen (with Sterling Gates). So Superman’s absence from the League probably didn’t bug him too much, since he helped set that up himself. Batman being lost in time also happened while Dwayne McDuffie was writing the League, so I don’t think that affected Robinson too much, either.

Still, Robinson wasn’t immune to outside interference either, I suppose. This was kind of the big problem with the way DC was handling the League at the time– it was completely subservient to the other titles in which its characters were appearing. Rather than give the writers of the Justice League time to work in changes like Superman going to Krypton and Batman disappearing and what-have-you, they felt those changes had to be reflected immediately. DC does seem to have learned its lesson to some extent since then, however, as Geoff Johns has been able to do his Darkseid War storyline without having to worry about incorporating Superman having trouble with his powers, Batman being replaced by Jim Gordon and so forth. This is how DC should be handling the League and continuity in general.

LiL, I’ve assumed it’s less about the series and more about the writers—Dwayne McDuffie simply didn’t have the standing at DC that Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns did to get things the way he wanted them.

@Fraser: I’ve often thought this as well. Which is really frustrating, because Dwayne McDuffie was one of the chief creators/writers on Justice League Unlimited, and I’m pretty sure that version of the League was a lot better-known to the public in those days than the comic version was.

I enjoyed Robinson’s JLA run. After the events of Cry for Justice and the death of Lian Harper, I was quite aggravated when he wiped out someone else toward the end of his run–I wanna say Bruce Gordon’s fiancé Mona Bennet? (It’s been a while.) But I later realized he was just causing destruction because he could, like with the writing here, he knew a reboot was coming.

I wanted to like Robinson’s JLA, bc I *loved* his Starman. But it just never felt right. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of most of the former sidekicks taking over the League (though I never cared for Congorilla on the team). Still, I bought the his entire run (except for the last issue bc when I heard DC was rebooting I dropped every book I was reading from them which was probably 75% of their output-I was pissed off; still am a bit).

But yeah, it was pretty much just those two series that continued stories, which spoke more to how messed up the reboot was, “Everything reboots! Except these two stories that were actually good at the time. How do we continue two stories while rebooting everything else, you ask? The answer is – poorly!”

From the time I realised they kept the fallout from War of the Lanterns into New 52 I knew Hal was gonna leave. He even kept his legacy characters and not even one of them replaced him (which probably why he created Gun Lantern).

To be honest, the Justice League comics were hard to get into after Final Crisis. Bats was dead, Supes moved back home, Hal was stuck on space cop duty, J’onn was dead and the Flash mantle was all over the place. They probably took out Diana because 2/3 of the Trinity was absent.

The book is going alright under Johns but it feels like he’s trying to pull a Hickman. I wonder what will happen to the book when he leaves.

What would “pulling a Hickman” be?

I’m in the process of wrapping up reading this storyline again right now. I’ve read the JLA since the early 80’2 and really, Robinson’s, once he got to this main cast of 7, is really one of my very favorites! It had so much potential, I wish we could’ve seen the other stories he suggested….!
:)

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