First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.26: Justice League International #23

Bass and Siskoid cover Justice League International #23, which introduces Major Disaster’s Injustice League. And since it does, the back half of the show is a discussion on DC’s villains – their favorites and not so favorites, and just what “makes” a DC villain as opposed to other brands’.

Listen to Episode 26 below (the usual filthy filthy language warnings may apply), or subscribe to First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast on iTunes!

Relevant images and further credits at: First Strike ep.26 Supplemental

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12 responses to “First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.26: Justice League International #23

  1. Nice show fellas, as always. I was kind of surprised to see Major Disaster in this loser Injustice League. My first exposure to him was his battle with Superman and the TSR Whiz Kids from one of those Radio Shack giveaway comics. I thought he was a big deal!

    With the appearance of these guys, we’re deep in the Plaktow of the BWAHAHA-ness of the book. The serious moments are few and far between. When they do come, it’s quite shocking though.

    Interesting discussion on the DCU villains. I like Deathstroke as a villain, but that’s it. I don’t want to see him as anti-hero, and I don’t want him so badass he takes on the JLA in actual combat and WINS. That was BS in Identity Crisis. He took down the Titans in The Judas Contract because he (and Terra) used stealth and deception. The only one he took on physically was Dick Grayson, who got away! The creeper aspect with him and Terra was meant to make everyone squirm. These are horrible people. But money talks, and DC found they could make money off of him as anti-hero. Sigh.

    Speaking of which, I hate Black Adam for much of the same reasons. As much as Johns loves his Superboy Prime, he also loved making Black Adam his own personal Namor, and left poor Captain Marvel and his family in the dust. Black Adam was an interesting VILLAIN, but Johns seems to be more interested in fleshing out villains and making THEM the protagonists of his stories. Captain Cold and Lex Luthor included.

    Live-action DC villains…hmmm. For the best, I would have to point toward all the big guns on the 60s Batman TV series. And lesser lights like David Wayne’s Mad Hatter were favorites as well. Sherman Howard on Superboy and Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville made great Lex Luthors, even when the material didn’t quite match the quality of their performances. Gene Hackman’s Lex worked great against Reeve’s Superman, and Kevin Spacey did a nice job reinterpreting that and making him a bit scarier. But Terrence Stamp’s General Zod is just so DAMN GOOD AT BEING BAD. I love that guy. Mark Hammil’s Trickster is fun on all fronts. Not really the comic character, but it works.

    As for bad…without hesitation, my least favorite is Jesse Eisnenberg’s Lex Luthor. I would rather binge-watch a Netflix series of Jared Leto’s Joker for 5 years than ever see that twitchy annoyance on screen again. Gawd.

    Chris

    1. You know it’s weird but while I agree with Chris that Johns has a history of being far more interested in making a small ground of villains anti-heroes I absolutely loved what he did with Black Adam. His induction into the JSA, how he behaved as a member, his fall from grace and his storyline in 52 were some of my favorite comics from the mid-2000’s.

      So I get where Chris is coming from but I can’t climb that hill with him.

      Which actually makes me a little sad.

  2. I liked this episode a lot, probably because it focused less on INVASION! per se and more on the DC villains as a whole.

    I was never able to put my finger on it, but now that you’ve talked about villains created for a specific purpose having a short shelf life, I understand why I’ve never liked Doomsday. Every time I would see someone say “Oh man, when are they gonna do Doomsday in a Superman movie?”, I’d ask myself, “Why? He’s just a big monster.” To me he’s not 1/100th as interesting as Luthor, Brainiac, etc., even though he got to do something that no other Superman villain did.

    My fav underrated villain is Black Mask. He was created in the 80s during the Moench-Mandrake run, and he had a sharp look combined with a good, nasty back story. I know he’s been used a bit in later years, but I don’t think he’s ever showed up in a Batman cartoon and certainly not in the movies. I think he’s a prime candidate for promotion to A list status.

    I did love this issue’s cover, As Bass suggested, it is VERY 80s–the villains feel like they’re in one of those early MTV videos where film editors had just discovered Star Wipes and Chroma Keys.

  3. Welcome back, gentlemen! I was really starting to miss this podcast, so glad it’s here and another job well done.

    Bass, no hurry, you do get a heist story featuring the Injustice League in Justice League Quarterly #4. It’s the first story but doesn’t make the cover, which just figures for these guys. Not written by Giffen-DeMatteis, but it’s the madcap comedy of errors you’d expect with this crew. Hang in there, you’ll reach it eventually.

    Oh and three words: Kooey Kooey Kooey.

    Fascinating discussion of the villains. I disagree about Marvel lacking “mirror” villains. The fact that the Marvel heroes often attract theme villains makes it even easier to have “mirror” villains. Hulk/Abomination. Spider-Man/Scorpion before Venom. And I think it’s important to count teams, as in Marvel, the teams are even more important than solo hero titles. Fantastic Four/Frightful Four. Avengers/Masters of Evil. X-Men/Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But that’s just my 2 cents.

    I do admit, I like Deathstroke as a villain, hate him as an anti-hero, and in recent years, just want to see his face caved in. BADLY! And I’m not a violent person. Honest!

    Siskoid is right on about enjoying Z-listers. Considering how many times the comics feature “villain of the month”, you *have* to enjoy these one-shot (or one-hit?) wonders. For me, one recurring villain I like? Scarface and the Ventriloquist. Just thinking about what goes on in his/their head makes me dizzy. Calvin and Hobbes-ian level of dichotomy there.

    Thanks again! See you on the front!

  4. Great episode! Love the villain talk.

    I’ve tried to decide who Wonder Woman’s opposite villain is. Dr. psycho? Misogynist male? Or Silver Swan? Woman so obsessed with physical beauty she’ll do anything?

    As for my own faves, I skew closer to Siskoid. My faves when the boys were doing Who’s Who? Hyathis, Manhawks, and Readtron. I guess my biggest fave would be Two-Face.

    My favorite Legion villain is Mordru thinking his sorcery is a nice foil to the gleaming sci-if of the material.

    Lastly, DC does go to the ‘villain trying to overcome and be a hero’ a fair amount. Just look at JLA right now with both Lobo and Killer Frost.

    1. I don’t think there really is a “dark mirror” Wonder Woman. The First Born, maybe? But just because a villain shows opposite traits (which they all do just on the good/evil divide) does not make them a Reverse- or Bizarro- version of the hero.

      I know you meant Reactron there, not his bookish kid brother.

  5. I love a spotlight on the lesser villains, with the Oolong Island segments of 52 being the most recent highlight. I can’t get enough of Ira Quimby, aka IQ. Salvation Run is the biggest missed opportunity for choosing to make the story edgy and bad-ass instead of villain Survivor – outwit, outplay, outlast!

  6. So…Doomsday and Bane.

    The reason why Doomsday worked for me when the whole Death of Superman thing went down was that they followed the seven issues of destruction with seven more thoughtful, character based issues. Doomsday was a means to an end so the fact that there wasn’t much to him never bothered me. SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY HUNTER/PREY was an entertaining story and tying Doomsday’s origins to Krypton was interesting but I can name two more Doomsday centered stories that I liked; DOOMSDAY WARS and SUPERMAN #175. Maybe his brief appearance in INFINITE CRISIS #7 but that was because it was cool to see Superman and his Earth-2 counterpart take him down. Having him appear in the first REBIRTH ACTION COMICS arc was interesting but I think the only reason I liked that was due to Dan Jurgens’ involvement. Otherwise I don’t have much use for the character and it seems like some writers use the concept as a club to beat the readers with.

    Bane is a different story. I agreed with Bass’ assessment of the two cinematic versions of the character that we’ve seen. No one will defend the BATMAN AND ROBIN version and it seemed like Nolan wanted to trade off of certain iconic comic book moments and then “fix” the character by making him Eurotrash. I used to agree with Siskoid’s assessment of the character that after KNIGHTFALL the character didn’t have much use but I have since realized that I like most of those stories. VENGEANCE OF BANE II was a great one shot that showed his rise from defeat. His part in the LEGACY storyline was likewise interesting even if the rematch with Batman wasn’t what I wanted though I admit that was on me. BANE OF THE DEMON was likewise a solid examination of the character and explained his alliance with Ra’s Al Ghul. He also had some great moments in NO MANS LAND and I loved Gail Simone’s take on him in SECRET SIX.

    Where I really disagree with Siskoid is how he was used in KNIGHTFALL. I could be wrong but Siskoid seemed to feel that he came out of nowhere and wasn’t well developed. Unlike Doomsday (who had four pages worth of appearances before the death storyline began) Bane was introduced in an amazing one shot that set out his origin and motivations. For several months after that he began his campaign against Batman before breaking the inmates out of Arkham and watching them systematically wear Bruce down until BATMAN #497, where Bane made his back breaking move. I liked this because it made him more than just a bruiser that broke the Bat. He had a compelling origin, a clear motivation and he was calculating about how he went about it.

    Like most good Batman villains he was a dark reflection of Batman himself; a boy that lost his childhood and made himself into something greater. The fact that he used Venom was his biggest weakness and ultimately it proved his undoing.

    All of this is a long winded way of saying that Bane is one of my favorite Batman villains and the fact that the only adaptation that got him right was his few appearances on the Bruce Timm animated makes me sad. Yeah you can poke fun at the mask and say he’s just a roided out Mexican wrestler but I think there’s a lot more to him than that.

  7. Mr. Fixit’s longtime ex-girlfriend Pussycat was fascinated with Killer Klowns from Outer Space. He’s seen it dozens of times as a result.

    I enjoyed Justice League international #22, which prompted me to buy the successive issue, and that one was the first to approach the heights of “Moving Day”‘ hilarity. On the strength of these two issues, I resumed collecting JLI monthly for another half-year (before dropping it again until “Breakdowns”.)

    It’s funny that you guys so closely associated the Injustice League with Suicide Squad without mentioning their seeming deaths in the debut issue of the Keith Giffen relaunch of that property in 2001. Shag and I are are the main proponents of that volume against the overwhelming majority who dismiss it. As a DC neophyte, I was surprised to learn that this was the first ever Injustice League, having assumed that they were just the silly JLI era incarnation of an earlier group. Sadly, Wikipedia remains so misguided, stating the Injustice League was created by Scott Beatty in 2000 on their entry. But again, in the ’90s, I didn’t know there was a difference between the Legion of Doom, the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and so on, misfiling them under the Injustice League banner. I may have been passingly aware of Big Sir, but otherwise did not know any of the members of the team as preexisting from first contact. I don’t care to see any of these guys played straight, so Joe Kelly’s use of Major Disaster was not welcome. They’re great fun, and I only want them around in a comedy context.

    I’m unwilling to devote the next week to researching DC villains from a comprehensive historical and subjective perspective in service to an essay post when you guys were obviously doing a more informal and broad discussion here. For the benefit of my sanity and yours, I’ve altered the rules of your topic to relate to my personal interests and knowledge contemporaneous to the publication of Invasion!

    My favorite DC villains of the immediate post-Crisis period as of my reading in 1989 were The Joker, Silver Banshee, Raʾs al-Ġūl, Major Force, The Cheetah, Vandal Savage, and ARGH!YLE! That’s a pretty good mix of A/B/C/D-listers, but I’ll add shout-outs to Plastique, Magpie, and Dumas to take it all the way down to the Z-list. Man, I wore the Bolland laughing Joker shirt at least once a week for 2-3 years until the damned thing was rendered unsuitable as a garment from excessive wear & tear. The Joker lost favor with me through the accumulation of evil acts, so that he was the author of every major strike against the extended Bat-Family aside from “Knightfall.” After a while, I couldn’t respect Batman for not allowing Joker to be dealt with effectively, and I couldn’t laugh off his assaults on Barbara Gordon or Jason Todd in the same way I could a nameless goon in a JLI annual. Joker got too icky, and it only seemed to add to his creepy ass fan base. Now I hate the dude.

    I was such a fan of Deathstroke the Terminator at one time that I made my own custom figure out of a McFarlane Toys “Die Hard.” Now I wish it was an unmolested Diehard figure. I could get past the underage sex aspect when I myself was underage, but it’s a lot harder to forgive now that I’m closer to Slade Wilson’s age, though the true breaking point was Geoff Johns’ revelations in his Titans East story arc. Any ambiguities about age of consent are dispensed with when there is no semblance of consent in play. He’s a child molester. Fuck that guy forever.

    I can allow myself to speak to all-time favorites in the live action adaptations division. They would include (roughly in order) Terence Stamp’s General Zod, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Louis Jourdan’s Anton Arcane, Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor, Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face and Cesar Romero’s Joker, The Catwoman is my favorite live action DC villain, and I’ve liked all of her actresses to varying degrees, though none top Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Runners-up include Amanda Waller (Pam Grier, Angela Bassett & especially Viola Davis) and the other Lex Luthors. My list of DC’s worst in live action baddies would include (again, approximate order in powers of awfulness) Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Jared Leto’s Joker (though I dislike Heath Ledger’s, as well), Howie Mandel’s Mr. Mxyzptlk and Tom Hardy’s Bane.

    Getting back to the Joker, I hate him in part for his gluttony, because every dark victory belongs to him. Let Black Mask torture Spoiler to death or Killer Croc kill Jason Todd’s parents more often to spread the blame more evenly and give all the main villains credibility. That’s also why Bane and Doomsday fail to resonate. They’re artificially conceived Villain Sues who jumped to the head of the line the first time out and became manufactured one-hit wonders. Nobody is impressed when these dudes are gifted a great prize instead of earning it. Hush also falls into this camp. That said, if I ever wrote comics, I’d go right after those guys, trying to take on the challenge of telling interesting stories with them to make them become the contenders they were sold as. Alternately, I’d turned them out further down the food chain. Supergirl going against Doomsday on her own is a lot more a cause for concern than having Superman gather his gang to batter that beast for the ninth time. I will say that both Bane and Doomsday have exceptional origin stories, so the foundation is there. Hush is no Kenny Braverman, so I’m not sure how much you could really build him up.

    Because DC is more about archetypes and Marvel is more about personalities, the former is prone to inverted symbols like Black Mirrors where the latter looks for more varied contrasts in their villains. Also, the mingling of talent/editorial and imitation between the companies makes this less pronounced, hence the many evil versions of Spider-Man to carry their own solo projects & DC’s late life embrace of sympathetic villains/antiheroes. Anj, Wonder Woman’s clearest evil opposites include (but are not limited to) Baroness Paula von Gunther, Devastation, and Genocide. Because Diana represents ideologies, she attracts conceptual opposition, but only in modern history has she had so many basic flip-sides along the Bizarro/Professor Zoom lines.

    I agree with Paul Hix about Salvation Run a stupid and mean mini-series where A-list villains went Lord of the Flies on similar, lesser lights like Monsieur Mallah and Psimon. And I still like Bass, even if he is wearing fresh from the box Speed Force-branded Nike Decades.

  8. My favorite Superman villains: Not Luthor, not Doomsday, not even Brainiac. It’s Metallo and the Parasite. They jockey back and forth for position; usually Metallo is higher on the list, but today I think I like Parasite more. Not sure why.

    Favorite Wonder Woman villains: Cheetah, Giganta, Silver Swan, Dr. Psycho, Dr. Poison.

    Favorite “obscure” villain: I don’t think he’s all that obscure but he’s definitely not A-list–Shadow Thief. So weird-looking. I love a villain who comes off as two-dimensional even on the page!

    Favorite Batman villain: Sorry, but it is the Joker. Just as Batman is my favorite hero, the Joker is my favorite villain, though I readily concede both are overexposed at the moment.

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