Home > C-plus, Episode Reviews, Justice League > Justice League 1×18-19 – “Legends”

Justice League 1×18-19 – “Legends”

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Legends

Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by Dan Riba
Respectfully dedicated to the memory of Gardner F. Fox
Original Airdates: April 21st & 28th, 2002
DVD: Justice League, Season One

Summary: An accident launches the Justice League into a parallel dimension where they encounter heroes from a simpler time who Green Lantern read about as a child.

Debuting Characters: The Justice Guild of America (Tom Turbine, The Streak, Black Siren, Green Guardsman, Catman… er, not that Catman.)

Focal Character: Green Lantern

Other team members: Hawkgirl, J’onn J’onzz, Flash; Superman and Batman make brief appearances in the bookend scenes

Cameos: Lex Luthor appears in a non-speaking role in the cold opening.

Background:

One of the earliest stories on the drawing board when Justice League was pitched was a throwback to what became a DC yearly tradition in the 1970s and early 80s: a crossover between the JLA and the Justice Society (we’ve talked about them before), who, due to timeline issues, had been explained as occupying different alternate worlds. However, the episode itself wound up being one of the most problematic in DCAU history.

Upon setting up the story as a very silver-age feel story – complete with the JSA acting like they were from the 50s or 60s – DC balked at the treatment. As Timm explains:

DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz had some concerns with the story.  He felt the story as written disrespected the JSA and was overall an inappropriate use of the characters.  We pleaded our case, but we could clearly see his point, too:  the DC guys have spent a lot of time and effort in revitalizing the JSA recently (to the point here it’s now one of their most popular titles) we certainly didn’t want it to seem as if we were saying the JSA was a joke.  No disrespect was intended on our end—quite the opposite!  We wanted the story to be a love letter to the original JSA and a bittersweet nod to simpler times.

Bruce Timm, interview by Toonzone.com

From Timm’s thoughts as well as the commentary track, the change was made very late in the process – late enough, in fact, that enough animation and design work was completed to put together a brief trailer:

I’d tend to agree with Paul Levitz on this one – to have the actual JSA act and behave like the Justice Guild does in this episode, even if it may have been somewhat accurate, would seem horribly out-of-step with the modern rendition (especially The Streak’s line about GL being a “credit to (his) people”) and may have resulted in people being less likely to pick up one of DC’s marquee titles. I doubt that anyone who wasn’t paying close attention would have even noticed what had happened, and the end result doesn’t lose anything thematically.

The members of the JGA are:

  • Tom Turbine – atomic powerhouse, based on The Atom. Al Pratt was originally just an incredibly strong short guy, but later gained atomic strength.
  • The Streak – speedster, based on the original Flash, Jay Garrick. Jay inhaled fumes from heavy water and gained superspeed. Go with it, it was the 40s. I think Jay’s recently made his animated debut thanks to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is why that show is so great.
  • The Green Guardsman – based on the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who found a mystical lantern that granted him the power to create emerald-tinted energy constructs based on his own imagination. He later used a fragment of the lantern to shape a magic ring, which he actually wore into battle rather than haul the lantern around.
  • Black Siren – based on Dinah Lance, the Black Canary. Nothing more than a tough woman in fishnets. Don’t confuse her with her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, who is the modern Black Canary and will appear later in JLU.
  • Catman – this is the interesting one, as based on the video above he’s obviously supposed to be Wildcat (Ted Grant, former heavyweight boxing champion – he also shows up in JLU). However, there actually is a DC character named Catman. Timm and company can be forgiven for forgetting about him as, at the time, he was believed to be dead. In a weird twist, writer Gail Simone did one of comics greatest salvage jobs on Catman, and he’s now one of the lead characters in her Secret Six series (along with Deadshot, who we saw earlier).

Their opponents are also all based off classic DC villains:

Lastly, the antagonist is a collection of tributes, from Roy Thomas and Ray Bradbury as his original name, to the original Brainwave (a JSA bad guy) with the look of GL villain Hector Hammond.

Thoughts on the Episode:

To resort to cliche, the old yarn says that you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Green Lantern gets to do exactly that in this episode, and, well, I’m not sure how well it works out for anyone concerned.

The Justice Guild, as noted above, comes off as earnestly goofy, but perhaps a bit too much of a parody of the originals to really be effective when things go to hell in the final 15 minutes or so of this one. Prior to that, it really is a fun riff on the old JLA / JSA team-ups, complete with the classic Gardner Fox JLA episode setup of the teams splitting into smaller units to deal with multiple threats. But, and perhaps this is the product of being a cynical fan, the expectation that there’s going to be a swerve means that the JGA never quite settles in as guest stars. I was half-expecting them to be the evil ones keeping the world in its unchanging state in order to hang onto their fading glory, but even though they actually what they were supposed to be on the surface the overall “… something isn’t right…” tone of the episode hurts when the characters actually stumble onto the mystery.

However, when everything does shake out, the ending goes from a light mystery to something a lot bleaker, and that firts the story a lot better. Firstly, the actual confrontation with the Injustice Guild is a pretty good action scene, which comes across better than the action sequences at the end of the first half. Then we get to the downright scrary revelation of Ray, and the realisation that the heroes are going to have to figure out a way to beat both Ray and the robot.  The scene of the post-apocalyptic world is about as bleak a resolution as you’ll find in Justice League – even though the people have been freed, they’re not any better off than they were before the League showed up, and in fact they may not be long-lived, exposed as they are now to the radiation-choked planet. The ending lacks a bit of punch, which is the result of a change made after the first animation was done – the sky of the ruined world was supposed to be a nuclear winterized yellow as opposed to the cheery blue it wound up, but the producers thought that leaving people with the idea that the survivors were simply going to choke to death on radiation without hope of rebuilding was a bit too bleak.

Although the JGA initially comes across as goofy, though, their final self-sacrifice is very well-done, complete with the conscious choice to essentially commit suicide. The last section of the episode isn’t very happy at all – in spite of Flash’s attempts at humour, it’s very much a downer of an ending as GL has to face up to the fact that while his heroes were that in the end, they were living a hellish existence for a very long time. The final scenes of GL and Hawkgirl consoling each other is a nice hint of the future, but also shows that the League looks out for its own.

The nearly-there character designs are all pretty acceptable substitutes for the actual JSA members; it should be no surprise that I like The Streak the most, as the outfit both invokes the classic Flash colours and reminds me of an F-1 racer’s outfit from that era. And as much as I like Alan Scott, let’s face it… he has perhaps the ugliest outfit in comics history that doesn’t have anything to do with moths.

Grade: C+.

Random Thoughts:

  • This is another episode pairing GL and Hawkgirl, and as opposed to their “meet cute” in War World, here they’re already showing signs of tenderness towards each other.
  • I’m not sure how Lex got out of jail, while wearing the battle armour no less, but it’s a cool enough cold opening.
  • From the looks of the original version trailer, this was going to be more of a time travel storyline, or at least the league members would be aware that the JSA were from out of time.

Flash Line of the Episode: “Does anyone else notice how those two are the only cops in this town?”

Next Justice League: So Jack Kirby, Hugh Hefner and King Arthur Walk into a bar… “A Knight in Shadows.”

Next Time: Maybe that little bit of special content I promised, because I need to push the next JL episode to next Monday in order to get an appropos comic review this weekend.

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  1. drake101001
    March 14, 2010 at 10:36 am

    i wish todays comics could take the equality of 2010,and combine it with comics created by dr werthams good deed + no sadism except by villians+ the artwork of horror comix andadult swim+ the niceness of newspaper strips(the joker vs the sparrow) and have the joker act like in the story the jokers utility belt-comic book) and the artwork(cute girls) of 1979

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