Thursday, 6 October 2011

I ♥ the 90s (comics), #2: Grant Morrison's JLA

Back in the 80s and early 90s, everyone loved British writers, mostly thanks to the creative and commercial successes of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Writers like Mark Millar, Peter Milligan and Warren Ellis started getting higher profile gigs with the big publishing companies. DC, in particular, was very good at taking chances on these weird new writers.

Grant Morrison was one of these weirdos, and he was Scottish if you can imagine. They tested him on Animal Man, which was excellent, but relatively small fry, and also Doom Patrol, which I think was for people who are smarter than me. He was known then (and still now) as someone who writes outside the box. Outside the box and down the street and round the bend. So I imagine that getting him on board to relaunch one of, if not the, biggest franchises that DC publishes, was seen as something as a risky move.

But it was, as I'm sure you've guessed because you're very intelligent and handsome, a risk that paid off, big time.

Firstly, Morrison took what was then seen as a pretty big leap, and he started his run by only letting people on his team if they were already super popular. There was, I'm sure, outcry when Metamorpho and, erm, Fire were ousted in favour of Superman and Wonder Woman, but... it was a stupid outcry. Look at that first cover. How badass is that?! If you ignore Superman's hair, of course, which is still unforgivable. Super-Mullet go! Anyway, yes, Morrison began his run with what became known as the Big 7. That's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. And in the first storyline, he showed that the most dangerous of them all, was the unpowered Batman. 

Like we didn't already know, pfft! (Awesome.)

Morrison knew what his audience wanted. There were all the big plots and neat ideas of his usual work, but less of the obscure storytelling and breaking the fourth wall. It was just great big balls-to-the-wall superhero adventure, with threats that could really challenge this team of near-gods.

What would happen, for instance, if Batman were evil? That would be Prometheus, who very nearly takes the whole league down. And what about if the Martian Manhunter's people were alive and evil? Big-time destruction. And what if God were angry?

Not long into his run, Morrison started to introduce more characters. Tons of them. JLA became a veritable army, and introduced some brilliant new(ish) characters. There's Huntress and Catwoman, and Connor Hawke (the new Green Arrow), and Zauriel, Steel, Oracle, Big Barda (best superhero name ever) and Orion. He even made Plastic Man kind of cool. And the whole thing became bigger and bigger and totally, don't hate me, epic.

It was slightly affected by the excesses of 90s comicdom, unfortunately. Remember when Superman died? You do. And do you remember when he was instantly revived in this weird blue, electric form? Probably not. Well he's all blue and electricity-y for a large part of Morrison's run, which is rubbish. And when he's not, he has Super-Mullet. Thinking about it, Superman was the real victim of 90s excess...

I just loved this run. It was like watching a really well-produced, big-budget, intelligent blockbuster (like, say, the recent Star Trek film), for forty issues. And what could be better than that*?

*to a very specific kind of person

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