(Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.)
Please excuse me for a moment while I get very serious about the subject of unnecessary seriousness.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed a feeling, deep down in my gut, that only seems to be getting stronger. It’s a sense of impending doom, I think. Studies show that we are safer now than we have ever been before. The threat of nuclear war helps maintain a steady peace. There are more developed nations and fewer violent crimes. You are more likely to die of an obesity related illness than starvation.
But, still, there’s something out there. Something unknown that seems to be headed towards me at breakneck speeds. And it means to hurt me. I don’t know if it’s disease or the threat of poverty or unemployment. Maybe it’s the knowledge that someone really is listening in and watching intently, all the time.
Whatever it is, it scares me. So there are probably spiders involved.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that I’ve found myself almost jaded when it comes to the end of the world. In comic books, I mean. I’ve found it hard to care about alien tyrants coming to split the planet in half or shatter cities or enslave the human race. The stakes are always high. So why do we call them “high” anymore?
After all, we’ve seen the “consequences.” When the cities are broken, when thousands are dead, when the lives not lost have been destroyed… But the heroes are victorious… Well, then we all just celebrate. And even if the heroes fall, death is a revolving door. Just another enemy to be inevitably defeated.
I was in the 6th grade when two planes hit two towers and the world fell upside down. I remember watching the news. Same footage playing over and over and over again. Names scrolling across the TV screens. I wondered if my father would come home.
Oh, and then there was the big reveal. Costumed super villains from across the globe had hatched a nefarious plot to destroy us. But our uniformed heroes flew after them and brought justice half a world away. They’d declared war on fear itself. At least, that was how I’d understood it at the time.
I don’t remember celebrating.
As a matter of fact, it was only a few days later when an angry boy, barely older than me, pushed me in the hallway and asked if I was gonna strap a bomb to my chest like those bastards who killed his uncle. That was the first time. The first time I really felt someone hate me. And I didn’t know what to do. For the last twelve years, I’ve grown up in a world that’s allowed to hate me for what I look like. Just a little. Just some jokes here and there.
There are things that cut you deep, like glass in your stomach. They are small and they are many. And there are no superheroes to save you.
I’m tired of the end of the world. I want to see the small problems. And, most of all, I want to see the effects.
Years ago, the most revolutionary concept in all of comic book history was introduced. By DC no less. The 80’s was a new era for the Justice League. The idea was simple: a sitcom about superheroes, taking place, largely, in the downtime between epic battles. The team would be mostly B and C string characters or new creations all together. And, after a while, it wasn’t the Justice League anymore. It was the Justice League International.
That may sound like it has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. But, honest to God, it’s wonderfully relevant. See, the JLI was about relationships more than anything. It was about friendship and love and, betrayal and loss and redemption. It was about the little moments that define us. And, most importantly, it wasn’t afraid to poke fun at the medium. It was fine to laugh at a super villain with a stupid name because there was something bigger out there that wasn’t okay to make jokes about.
I often say that the fundamental difference between the JLI and the JLA is that the JLA deals with the loss of people, sometimes in the thousands or millions. The JLI deals with the loss of individuals. Of friends and family members. The disconnect is palpable.
The true emotional core of Batman is that he saw his parents die in front of him and he was helpless. He never wants anyone to suffer that pain. Similarly, Superman’s great tragedy is loneliness. There are many great stories about them each saving cities or planets or universes, doing the impossible because they’re so much bigger than we are. But what drew me to them in the first place was that personal loss. That isolation. That was relatable.
People cry. They make jokes. They sometimes trip over their own feet. They fall in love and have their hearts broken. They have good days and, more often than they’d like, they have bad days. They have friends. And pets. And stupid little sentimental knickknacks. Sometimes they do impossible things. Most of the time, they don’t.
I like a good bit of escapism. And I doubt I’ll stop buying comic books about men who leap buildings, or women who fight ancient gods, or would-be conquerors who hash out intricate plots to rule the galaxy. But sometimes I wonder… Whatever happened to the JLI?