JLI Podcast #1 – Justice League #1 (May 1987)

The premiere episode of JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL: BWAH-HA-HA PODCAST! The Irredeemable Shag welcomes guest host Ryan Daly to discuss Justice League #1 (May 1987)! We begin our journey chronicling the adventures of the JLI era from Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis by covering behinds-the-scenes history, recapping the story, and discussing the issue!

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27 responses to “JLI Podcast #1 – Justice League #1 (May 1987)

  1. Congrats on a strong debut. Love the segments and agree with Ryan’s read of Batman post-Dixon. I actually really like Black Canary’s “aerobics” costume, but boy do I loathe those Green Arrow comics. Talk about ruining a character in service of a torture fantasy. So gross… and ahead of its time! Give me the Action Comics Weekly stories any day.

    On a different note, I believe Maguire was also slated to draw the Silver Surfer series at the same time as Justice League. After drawing the first issue of JL, he quickly reconsidered and bowed out.

    Also, we all remember Grant Morrison’s JLA launch in ’96, right? It was noted (by a reviewer at the time or maybe by Grant himself) that the art direction on that JLA cover, drawn by Howard Porter, tried to be the exact opposite of Kevin Maguire’s, whose camera angle looked down upon the heroes (casting them in a “too human/down to Earth” light). JLA, on the other hand, made the readers look UP at the heroes (in their oh-so magnificent splendor), which makes sense considering they wanted to get away from anything humorous. I never felt like we were looking down on anyone in Maguire’s cover, though, it’s simply a well designed cover. That criticism is just Morrison projecting. Anyway, you tell me: how many times has Porter’s cover been swiped?

    1. Michel – Thanks for the comments! Absolutely right about Maguire and Silver Surfer! I forgot to mention that. Also, fascinating observations about Porter’s #1 cover!

  2. I loved this series. Bought it from my Comic Book store at the same time that Watchmen came out. I was a huge fan of this Jusice Leauge from issue 1. There was nothing like thus in comic boos at the top me. I can see now that a lot of what I would go on to love about non-Superhero comics, came from this series. That is the weird thing about this series. It is an always excellent comic, but not always a good Superhero story. Great coverage, great discussion. I forget there is a second person, aside from my self who liked the Detroit Leauge. I have an X-Titan based bias for b-list teams. Loved the show, great job guys.

  3. It’s finally here!

    Does anyone swipe this cover other than Maguire? He’s done it dozens of times. Other often swiped covers include Action Comics #1, and Fantastic Four#1, mostly by John Byrne.

    You guys are criticizing the pre-computer coloring for not being up to modern day standards? DC didn’t even start experimenting with computer coloring until 1989.

    This issue was nominated for an Eisner award for Best Single Issue.

    The Black Canary as founder was introduced in Secret Origins #32, coming up soon on the Secret Origins Podcast, a member of the Fire and Water Podcast Network!

    1. Joe – Thanks for the comments. Quick clarification, I wasn’t criticizing the coloring. Just observing the coloring choices. I thought it was interesting and a curious choice. If I sound like I was criticizing, then that was my bad. Thanks!

  4. Just listened… completely fantastic. I’m already anticipating the next episode. Hey, if your theme music is some TSO, I’m there regardless of topic. But, as I’d been waiting to hear this episode for a while, the theme was like extra whip cream on top of the sundae.

    1985 and 1986 were my super huge years for collecting comics. Who’s Who and Doctor Who were my favorites… but aside from those, I was all about Ambush Bug. And, when i thought of Ambush Bug, the name that resonated in my 12-year-old mind was Giffen… Giffen… I can’t believe I missed his name on the JL and JLI comics from the end of ’86 and the start of ’87. Around that time, I was buying and enjoying the Justice League of America index. I’m surprised I wasn’t paying more attention to the current titles. Maybe I was too busy worrying about getting the New Universe titles from Marvel. (Yes, that was me.)

    I quite enjoy issue #1. The thing about Guy Gardner is that he is a douche-nozzle. But, I never fully dislike him. And, my wife loves his haircut… so there’s something to be said for that. I do like Batman in this. Two nights ago, I re-watched BATMAN RETURNS (which I do about twice a year). I can’t see that Batman caring about the bureaucracy of the JL but I love these DC characters because they bend, move and re-form to fill a hundred different places. All sorts of different functions. And they’re all fun. The JLI Batman seems to be fulfilling obligations to the former JL. That’s something to admire.

    Mister Miracle and Oberon are awesome. But, I eagerly await the appearances of Big Barda. She can leap off the page, beat the crap out of me and then kiss me. I would have no problem with that.

    This podcast episode was fantastically paced. I could talk about the characters for ages. (I love Captain Marvel in this.) But, I wanted to comment on the structure of your episode. I’m part of two podcasts. One has a “punk” attitude. The episodes go on as long as they need to. In the second one I’m part of (The Made-For-TV Mayhem Show), we are constantly trying to cut down the length of each episode. But, we go off on so many tangents… This JLI episode is a perfect example of saying what needs to be said… and then getting on with it. Shag (Shagg?), all of your segments laid everything out perfectly. Very impressive. Very well done.

    Thank you kindly for this. It was worth the wait. But.. Can I wait until the next one?

    Yes, I can… but it makes for a very suspenseful question.

  5. Re: the comment on the sample pages, about the talking heads on tv exposition. Howard Chaykin was doing that on American Flagg before Frank drew a line of Dark Knight Returns.

    1. Miller first did the “TV screen as panels” back in Daredevil #169, 1980); American Flagg was ’83. Miller, Chaykin, and Simonson were studio mates for a bit, though, and I’m sure a lot of other ideas & approaches were shared during that time.

      1. If we keep going, we’ll find examples in all kinds of art, just different ways of presenting the tv footage, so they both were extrapolating on past techniques. Chaykin made the media more invasive in American Flagg, as that was part of the whole point. Miller used it for exposition; Chaykin used it for that; but, also satire of the “in-your-face” nature of the modern media. He also threw in the massive onslaught of advertising which really foreshadowed what we have today. I can only imagine what the book would have looked like if Chaykin had predicted the nature of the internet.

  6. Great premiere episode Shag! I love the format. Ryan’s okay too. Seriously, this was a great first episode. I bought this baby right off the rack in 1987, and followed the title for a good long while. I did drop out before Breakdowns began, but then I was in my “everything has to be edgy and serious” teenage phase by then.

    A few quick notes: The first comic I remember really using the TV screens/news anchors device to narrate the story was New Teen Titans Annual #2, so it’s no wonder Ryan thought of Perez.

    Also, not sure you knew this, but James Tucker and the folks behind Batman: The Brave and the Bold were angling to have B&B picked up as a JLI animated series. That’s why they featured the team so much in the later episodes. Too bad Cartoon Network didn’t give them that greenlight.

    Looking forward to the next episode!


  7. Great job fellas! A good start to the show.

    I distinctly remember making a special trip to a nearby Heroes World store (RIP) to pick up this book. I loved the JLA for so long and was disappointed over the last two or so years of the book that this new version with marquee heroes really excited me. I had my Dad drive me over there on a Saturday morning just to pick it up, and was not disappointed. I continued to love this series for years, even if Aquaman was almost never in it.

    Looking forward to future installments, if for no other reason than it means I will get the week off.

  8. I loved it, some really great ideas for running features, good production values, etc. Ryan pointing out that this was the first true post-Crisis team, with elements from various former Earths, was brilliant and worth the listen all by itself.

  9. I was in college when DC was entering its renaissance and rebirth. I was reading their earlier efforts, New Teen Titans and Legion of Superheroes; but, outside of that, I hadn’t read much Justice League since the crossover with the All-Star Squadron (“Crisis on Earth-Prime”). However, Crisis brought a lot of change to DC (change that was already fermenting) and it seemed like the company had finally decided to take chances. One of the chances was Legends, an interesting follow-up to Crisis, though one that was a bit more contained. During that event, the Detroit Justice League, which never interested me, was being wrapped up. I hoped they would now do something interesting with the group, having grown up with the satellite era. History of the DC Universe teased some new members and we knew that Legends featured some of them. Then, the solicitation, with the iconic Maguire cover came about. This was intriguing.

    The book captured my attention from the start. As you said, its not a pure comedy, at the start. The first few issues are pretty much adventure, with some witty dialogue and some great facial expressions. That was another element that captured my attention. I had been sampling the independent world and this seemed to fit more in that aesthetic than it did the traditional DC. I was hooked; and, as the comedy increased, I stayed.

    You talked about the book growing to be more about what happens in between adventures and that was a theme that was being explored in several comics of the era. Character studies became more of the top draws, rather than big action stories, though there were plenty of those. Again, much of that was the influence of the independents. One series that would explore similar ideas, though in a more serious vein, was The Hero Alliance. It started as a graphic novel, from Pied Piper Press, then a single issue from Wonder Color Comics. That was followed by a reprint (and expanded) mini-series, from Innovation and an ongoing series. One thing it also brought us was a conduit for some young, promising artists. Ron Lim was one (who went on to fame with Silver Surfer). The other was Bart Sears, who built his name on JLE, which factors in here. Another interesting book, at the time, was called The Maze Agency, a fair-play mystery comic, from Comico, from Mike Barr and a young artist, named Adam Hughes. Hughes would follow Maguire and really become a hot artist.

    The character mix was another attraction. You had a nice mixture of power and special abilities or skill sets. That soon morphed more into interesting personalities. Blue Beetle is a rookie gadget-based hero; but, he turns into a comedy duo, with the publicity-hungry Booster Gold. It was fun watching them turn into “Lucy & Ethel.” Oberon soon became one of my favorites. Even Guy Gardner became fun, though usually in the agent that stirs the mix.

    On thing that was clear, from the start, was that it was a very “Marvel” take on the Justice League. The writing team spent a lot of time at Marvel and use a lot of their tropes, like the bickering characters and the mysterious hand behind the scenes. DC made some us of that; but, usually from writers who came over from Marvel (in the great writer/editor exodus, in the wake of Jim Shooter). However, the dialogue wasn’t typical Marvel or DC, with the possible exception of Steve Gerber. Really, it struck me as being more like Defenders than anything else (a book that both of the writers worked on).

    I’m looking forward to exploring more of this, despite how old you guys make me feel on these things.

  10. ps Guy and Canary
    Don’t forget that Guy resurfaced in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, so Canary knew him early on; plus, I suspect she was aware of his exploits with the Green Lantern Corps, in and around Crisis.

    Also, the 80s and the International flavor. You guys are a little early on the Cold War winding down. The bigger element is probably CNN and global news. That did a lot to bring the world to our doorstep. Chernobyl is the first step towards a real :thawing” in the Cold War.

    Interestingly enough, A new Beginning was one of the early trade collections from DC, which demonstrates how successful the book was. There was also a poster of the first issue cover. DC was really starting to up their marketing game.

    In regards the relaunch fever, you also have to remember that the 80s was the era where the comic shop and the direct market came into prominence. Prior to that, you didn’t see books cancelled and relaunched because of Second Class mailing regulations. What you did see was a new book picking up the numbering from a previous one. (Charlton did a lot of that).

  11. Great episode on a great series. I bought JLI as it was coming out and totally enjoyed it from the start. It was a nice counterbalance to all the grim/gritty superheroes that washed ashore following Dark Knight Returns & Watchmen. I haven’t read the old issues in many years but you’ve inspired me. I will be reading along with you all the way.

  12. Great opening episode.
    Like Shag, I was trending towards more ‘mature’ books at the time this came out and so only bought the first issue! It seemed too funny for me at the time. It is only now, as I see these books in the dollar bin, that I have been slowly piecing together a collection. So listening to this will be like charting unknown waters. And now that I am in a ‘find my joy’ part of life, I have enjoyed reading them immensely.

    I have about 15 or so of the first 30 issues and like you guys, I am floored by the art. Maguire is brilliant. And the laughs are real.

    I would add that the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Metal Men in the back of the Giffen Doom Patrol is wonderful.

  13. Hi Shagg

    Great opening episode. It so excellent to see a JLI Podcast out there and you and Ryan did an excellent job in presenting the inaugural episode.

    My secret origin is slightly different in that being from the south of Ireland, there was no comic books around at the time. In 1989, with the Batman movie out, there was a UK monthly reprint comic being sold in the newsagents which reprinted the classic Wagner/Grant/Breyfogle run, which I devoured instantly. A Superman monthly reprint soon followed which reprinted the Byrne run – I was not going to get that but I saw that there was another comic reprinted with that which featured Batman – The Justice League. The first reprint I read was from Justice League 6, which had that opening splash page of the JLI and Creeper looking at the camera – apart from Batman, I did not have a clue who anyone else on the page was, but I was drawn into the story immediately by the brilliant art and funny dialogue. A few months later, when I started university in Cork, a fledgling comic shop opened up in the city and it was there I bought my first US comic (Justice League Quarterly 1) and first trade paperback (Justice League: A New Beginning). From that point on I was hooked and after a few years, soon had all of the back issues of the JLI run, as well as branching out into other DC comics.

    (As an aside, I remember hearing on the Secret Origins podcast which featured Martin Gray that he was involved with these reprints and developed another one for younger readers which featured the stories of Blue Devil – just wanted to give a shout out to Martin for being instrumental in the beginning of my comics habit!).

    Issue 1 was a great story, it set up the characters immediately and threw in the curveball that was Maxwell Lord. The terrorist story was probably a simple threat for the JLI to tackle, but it was merely the starting point for the Maxwell story to develop. Interestingly, Gerard Jones, in his post Zero hour run, brought back the brother of the dead terrorist to plague the Justice League America for a few issues but he was not memorable and if I recall correctly, Grant Morrison had that villian executed by the Hyperclan in JLA 1.

    I would slightly disagree with you on the Bwa-ha-ha moment – mine would be Blue Beetle sitting in the Bug, interfering with the terrorists’ communications as the rest of the League are taking the checkpoints out. He’s thinking to himself that he should be out there kicking butt with the rest of the League, but as the terrorists try to contact another of the party, he has to hold his nose to imitate another terrorist and thinking “God, this is so embarrassing!”. Very funny stuff.

    Am looking forward to your discussion of the Justice League movie. I actually saw that movie on television in Ireland! Must have been about 2004 and when I was looking through the television listings one day, I say, scheduled for 4 am(!), the Justice League of America. The VCR was warmed up and I taped it – it was badddddddd!!!! LOL Wish I had held onto that tape but am sure it will turn up in the tv listings some day!

    Great show again and looking forward to episode 2!

    1. Over here in the UK I also got that Superman comic with the JLI back up, but I was getting it for the Byrne Superman stories as I already had the Justice League stuff. I also picked up the other comic you mention with Blue Devil. It was called Heroes and also had reprints of classic Levitz Legion. It’ll have to listen to that Secret Origins episode, it sounds interesting.

  14. Fantastic show, Shag! It was everything I expected. With the excellent subject matter, highly entertaining guest, and somewhat-capable host, how could it have been anything other than awesome? I’m looking forward to revisiting this series with you.

  15. Congratulations on an excellent first episode, Shagg – the Fire and Water Network never lets me down. We’ve all been waiting for this show for awhile, and boy was it worth the wait – Ryan was a bonus.

    (Mind, his sense of time is pants – Batman Year Two came out about two years after Batman Year One.)

    I was with this book from the start, having been reading Justice League of America since about issue 100, well exactly issue 100, I remember what a big impression this person calling herself Wonder Woman made on me – surely the chick in the white sweater dress isn’t the Amazing Amazon? And the Seven Soldiers of victory… who the heck are they?

    Anyway, I read all through to the end of the satellite era and loved the Detroit stories – well, I’m sure I’ve said that previously. Those final stories with Despero and Professor Ivo were so powerful, and I was delighted to see that moment with Martian Manunter erasing the files… so poignant.

    This debut issue just knocked me out. The wonderfully expressive clean artwork, the vibrant script, the previously impossible mix of characters – I could definitely do without the big guns for awhile.

    I’ve also seen that Justice League TV film, it aired on the U.K.’s Channel 5 a few years ago. Sure it’s not an epic for the ages but it certainly tried to capture the JLI spirit and I think it’s succeeded to an extent. But certainly I would rather watch this film than a po-faced grimdark Christopher Nolan Batman borefest.

    Expository TV screens are among my most hated comics cliches, along with their child, the texting recaps. What a bore they are.

    A huge thank you to Jimmy McGlinchey for the kind words. I do miss being italicised.

    Now, where’s Frank?

  16. I’m still reading Jeff Nettleton’s comments. He’s the new me. Now I’ll have to start affecting an obscure accent or writing in the form of limericks to stand out.

    I enjoyed the first episode of Shagg Mmatthewws” latest podcasting endeavor, and expect to be pleased by its slow continuance on a planned monthly basis for the next five or more years, on which I look forward to appearing one time on a non-humorous outing and never again.

    My understanding is that Grant Morrison designed the cover for JLA #1, which I love, and when Michael Fife asks why no one ever homages it I do the same in an entirely different tone of voice. I even bought a set of figurines where Martian Manhunter was modeled after his appearance on the cover and the package layout was similar. It probably hurt its impact that Alex Ross had already done so many sourpuss up-shot line-ups of DC heroes for Kingdom Come, and I think folks were getting sick of than angle. Kevin Maguire’s cover was of course iconic, in part because of how often he’s swiped himself, with the America/Europe combo shot in the second year being my favorite variation.

    I thought the project that reunited Giffen, DeMatteis & Maguire was BOOM! Studios’ Hero Squared, a largely forgotten seriocomic look at alternate universe duplication of super-people, but I just checked the dates and saw that I was mistaken.

    I don’t know who suddenly decided Chuck Dixon was the exemplar of authoritarian Batman writing, because most folks point to Frank Miller, and I contend it goes back to Mike W. Barr on The Outsiders.

    Martin, I love you, but you’re completely wrong about Batman Year One/Two. One followed a month after the other in a different Batman title. It was Year Three that was the straggler.

  17. Great episode! I’ve waited a long time for someone to do a JLI-themed podcast and here we are! I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a special place in my heart the JLI has. While I had some issues growing up, it wasn’t until I was 14 going on 15 that I really got into the run as my local comic shop had tons of these in the 50 cent box. I might have gone nuts getting the Justice League Quarterly books and annuals. Eventually I got all of the JLI and JLE books and the reunion runs and put them into hardcovers because DC wasn’t reprinting them at the time.

    I can’t wait to dive back into an issue every month to follow along with you and a guest host, Shagg. You seem to have the same love and appreciation for these books as I do. It’s really like visiting old friends again!


  18. Late to the party, sorry about that. Excellent first episode. I remember when that issue was brand new and I remember not liking it then, but rereading it later I do like it. Frankly I’m a huge Giffen fan, which I did not set out to be, but after Ambush Bug and Son of Ambush Bug, I began to realize that I was a Giffen fan.
    Personally, being a man of a certain age, I want my comics to be fun and amusing. (Michael T. Gilbert’s Mister Monster is a favorite).
    Looking forward to episode 2.

  19. Thanks a lot, Shag. Now I’m going to have to buy these trades. I just blew a bunch of money collecting the John Byrne Man of Steel trades, but it looks like I’m going to have to pony up for these too.

    I didn’t read these books at the time due to their humorous tone, but I think I’m finally ready for them.

    Fantastic inaugural episode! I can’t wait to take this journey with you!

  20. Weirdly enough, I was living and working in Detroit when this issue came out, and so had been picking up the Justice League Detroit issues, but seeing them go nowhere. Your comments on this debut issue are spot on.
    But answer me this, Shag…. are you a professional radio Disc Jockey in normal everyday life? Cause you sure are entertaining enough…

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