JLI Podcast – Meanwhile… Gerry Conway Interview on Justice League Detroit

Famed JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA comics writer Gerry Conway joins The Irredeemable Shag to discuss the "Justice League Detroit" era of the team! We're looking to the past to prepare for the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE QUARTERLY stories featuring the super-team called The Conglomerate, including former JLA member Gypsy, and the brother of former JLA member Vibe. Tune in to hear the co-creator of Vixen, Vibe, Steel & Gypsy discuss this progressive, yet ultimately unsuccessful version of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA!

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24 responses to “JLI Podcast – Meanwhile… Gerry Conway Interview on Justice League Detroit

  1. Wow! I’m looking forward to listening to this interview. I must admit I never gave the JLA Detroit a chance back in the 1980s. I had only just started reading & collecting comics at the time and JLA was one of my first titles. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, the big guns are gone & replaced by new characters that didn’t interest me. I did love Batman & the Outsiders, however.

    Even then I thought it was an experiment doomed to fail. I’ve always wondered what was the inspiration for such a drastic change of direction. Thanks to Shag, now I’ll finally have some insight! I’m glad several of the characters have been reinvigorated for TV.

  2. I still remember the day my Uncle Frank gave me a copy of Justice League of America Annual #2. I was in awe! A NEW Justice League!!! A new team of heroes to protect the world, and here I am right at the start! This was going to be MY generations JLA. I was absolutely convinced I was holding the equivalent to Giant Size X-Men #1!
    Of course, things didn’t quite turn out that way, but I followed the team through through to the end. (I was also convinced Batman’s return would reignite the fires of fandom and become another Batman & The Outsiders).
    I have fond memories of the Detroit era, especially the early issues. I’ve always felt the team would have had a better chance had there been some overlap between the Satellite and Detroit Era. Maybe if Vixen had joined earlier, or if Superman and Wonder Woman had remained longer.
    Regardless, thank you for always giving this version of the League live and respect, and this great interview.
    That copy of The Justice League of America Annual 2 is still in my collection and in a place of honor. It’s one of my go to comfort reads.

  3. I hated the JLA Detroit. I loved Teen Titans and Batman and the Outsiders, and I could tell the Detroit League was following the same recipe–but that wasn’t what JLA was supposed to be, in my opinion. A team could be a Fantastic Four-type team that mostly has only a team existence, or an All-Star kind of assemblage of great individual heroes–and the JLA should be the latter.

    Plus–Bumblebee from the mid-1970s Teen Titans was DC’s first Black super heroine.

  4. Great interview! When I was 10 I picked up JLA Annual 2 as my first issue of JLA ever and wondered who the hell all these guys were.

    Great job with this episode, it has renewed my efforts to make custom Super Powers figures of every pre-Crisis JLA member, and the four new guys from JLD are the only ones missing now. Getting on it.

  5. FYI: The David Lean Conway mentions is “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970). It tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite moral and political opposition from her nationalist neighbors; it stars Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, John Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern. The film is a re-telling of the plot of Gustave Flaubert’s 1857 novel Madame Bovary. Mills won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

  6. Great interview, Shagg! JL Detroit holds a special place in my heart in that, like you, this was the League when I started collecting comics seriously in late 1984. While this League never quite worked, the characters always had a lot of potential. Over the decades, I’ve come to look at this era as a necessary transition the team needed in order to return to its former glory and prominence as the premiere team of the DCU. But, like Mr. Conway mentions in the interview, it’s nice that these characters have been receiving some love in recent years, particularly on the CW shows.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed his interview, loved hearing the behind the scenes tales of the Detroit area.

    So Vixen is more enduring than Power Girl? Definitely Vixen is a unique character although it seems Power Girl has had more appearances.

    A few questions I hope Gerry can answer, if he reads the comments or if Shag can relay them.

    1.) Loretta Reilly and Danette Reilly seemed to debut around the same time. Did Gerry and Roy sync their appearances as Firehawk and Firebrand to make them counterparts of each other on Earths One and Two?

    2.) Was it Gerry’s desire to have a young Steel on
    JLA Detroit that motivated Roy to move Commander Steel, whom Gerry also created, to Earth-One?

    2a.) What were Gerry’s long term plans for the original Steel, has his 1970s book lasted past issue 5 and endured the DC Implosion?

    3.) Behind the creation of Power Girl, did Gerry already have mapped out where Kara was prior to All-Star Comics #58, such as her origin and such?

    3a.) How many years was Kara on Earth-Two before she debuted. Since this was just prior to the reveal that Clark and Lois has married in Action Comics #484, did Gerry conceive of the idea that Lois and Clark raised a mid teen Kara as later writers have revealed?

    4.) Was Gerry’s Vulcan Son of Fire I forerunnner for Firestorm a year and a half later. Like an evil Earth-Two Firestorm who’s hero worshipping turned Christopher Pike into a maniac while Ronald Raymond was tempered with a good disposition?

    5.) And any behind the scenes details on Gerry and Roy collaborating on All-Stars even a little while Roy was still at Marvel, and later how Roy and Gerry collaborates in the Per Degaton 5-part crossover and other JLA and A-S S tales.

  8. 6.) Was Gadgeteer and Spirit King the same person, aka Roger Romaine? Did you ever consider his alias to be Igor Iceburg or Roy Radiccio or Calvin Cabbage, instead?

    7.) Were the Hawk Brother, with one being a Swamp Monster in Steel #5, inspire by @SwampThing and Anton Arcane or the Patchwork Man?

    8.) Any long term plans for Mineral Master from Steel #5?

  9. Great episode, always a pleasure to hear Gerry.
    One of my takeaways from this is the importance of differentiating learnt history or experience from lived history or experience. In the actual interview, I got it from Gerry’s mea culpa regarding Vibe and hispanic culture (and believe me, being of hispanic origin myself, Vibe, specially at the very beginning, was cringeworthy). In my life, it’s about JL Detroit: having left comics before this and coming back way after, I only heard trash talk about the comic and assumed it so, without having read more than a handful of the DeMatteis issues. Then I got the omnibus last year and found a completely different story. Yeah, sure, there are some missteps, but it’s mostly a good old fashioned super hero romp with some very good intentions behind it.
    Takeaway for writers and readers alike: don’t assume, don’t believe what the “common knowledge” tells you, do the work.

  10. Great interview! I have gone on record that JLA Annual #2 left me in tears. But I didn’t really give up on the JLA, despite 9 year old me resenting the “new guys”. I was horrified by what happened to Vibe and Steel in those last issues (especially Steel, who I actually liked). I think the team was turning a corner with the addition of Batman (although it was weird for Batman to be on two teams at once, and training a new Robin in his own titles). I do think Firehawk would have helped spice up the team, both visually, and in the powers department.

    I’m kind of surprised Gerry didn’t mention the Punisher as the character with the most impact and legacy. But maybe he was just sticking to DC. Of the Bronze Age creators, I would have to say he’s probably got more “breakout” characters under his creator belt than just about anyone.


  11. Thanks for a wonderful listen – what a great fella Gerry is, smart and funny and generous. Just like Shagg, actually.

    It was great to hear the behind-the-scenes stories, even when they’re sad – I hate the idea Chuck Patton, whose JLA art was wonderful, may have left the book under a cloud.

    Gerry’s reasons for the inclusion of the various members made sense. In terms of my own interest, I’d rank the new members as follows: Gypsy, Vixen, Vibe, Steel.

    And yes Shag, you’re right, Gerry made it very clear that Vibe was doing a Black Lightning so far as the street talk went. It’s a shame people such as George Perez were offended; I suppose it raises the question of presence vs representation

    I agree with Gerry, the original Mad comic was totally wonderful, with the likes of Gasoline Valley, Superduperman and Mickey Rodent. I bought the paperback reprints as a kid, and am excited to hear they’re on ComiXology.

    I’ve not heard of Brian Clevinger, but if Gerry says he’s the one to bring back Firestorm, bring it on DC; I find it maddening, and puzzling, that DC seem unwilling or unable to recreate the Firestorm formula from the Eighties. Ronnie and the Professor had one of DC’s biggest hits, the nostalgia factor alone should shift enough copies of a well-done new series to make it worthwhile.

    I’m sooooooo excited by the prospect of the Conglomerate episode, I wish they’d caught on.

    Anyway, thanks again for an outstanding episode – the amount of affection I have for this version of the League is ridiculous, and you made it come alive again.

  12. Thanks for this great interview, Shag and Gerry. I just wanted to add that I think Gerry’s instincts regarding the tone of superhero stories (in any medium) are spot on. DC should make him chief creative consigliere, or something. Just give him the power to course correct properties going off the rails.

    It isn’t really any different with real life action heroes. The level of grimness and melodrama we often see in comics and TV is unsustainable. Someone expressed disbelief to a friend of mine in Naval Special Warfare. He couldn’t believe SEALs really joke around as much as they do in Zero Dark Thirty. My friend assured the person who asked that they really do, and they kind of have to.

  13. Impresive pod cast. Most Impressive. I always liked Mr. Conways work. Though as much as I like Vixen and even if you count Comix Cavell cade. in 1978. Or Much less her appearance in Action comics
    July 1981) She is pre dated by both Nubia and Bubble Bee.
    Nubia (January 1973 Buble Bee December 1976) Unless her comic was planed before that. But, since the CC was planed because of the Paper thing. Not seeing them hold onto an issue that long. Sorry.

    But, at any case to Print Nubia is still the first Afro American Female Super hero. As well as WW’s twin sister. Oooh I get to put in the Vader Sister line now… happy dance. Now the circle is complete. Other than that great interview. Was fun hearing him talking about JLD. Among all the great stuff he created this has become pretty cool. And glad y’all talked about JLD being in the arrow verse. Hopefuly PG will hit live action at some point. Hoping that now that the Arrow vers made Home girl Killer Frost now that Mr. Conway gets his cut. As he should.

    Yeah she was great on the show. Hmm, yeah steel is like Booster. And with The Atom basically being Blue Bettel in a mech suit. That kind of makes it a Blue and gold JLI team up. Yeah Vixen er all 3 versions of her have been cool. But, the LOT version of her was great. Her romance with Steel was pretty good. Geez I’ve read a lot of Mr. Conway’s work over the years. And this was a cool pod cast. Can’t wait to hear the next one.

  14. Great interview, but then I knew it would be because I have the Gerry Conway interview DVD (a Kickstarter you were probably shilling for back in the day) and there as here as the other times you picked his brain, he’s great in interviews – insightful and full of stories.

    Thanks for the detour, Shagg. LAO beat me to mentioning Nubia and Bumblebee, though only recently has either of their creds been raised. Vixen was the DC black heroine with the biggest Q rating for a lonnnng while.

    1. Yeah, despite having a Mego figure in the 70s (in the 12″ Wonder Woman line), Nubia was so forgotten, she didn’t get a Who’s Who entry, or even a mention! Thank goodness for Xum’s Who!

  15. I respectfully disagree with Mr Conway on one teeny tiny point! I agree that solo books should be written by people connected to the character’s origins, but for team books, you really need to make an effort to be inclusive or you get the opposite problem. Though nowadays there are things like sensitivity readers to make sure you don’t go too far into the weeds.

    All in all an excellent episode though.

  16. This was a fantastic episode, Shag! Mr. Conway was a great interview and you did a marvelous job talking to him about an interesting part of JLA history. Sadly, while I never followed JLD when it came out, I am more interested now to go back and read those old issues. I think the part I enjoyed the most was Gerry’s overall approach to how he wrote comics in that he took the characters’ problems seriously, but didn’t take the stories too seriously. It made for fun comics!

    I laughed to hear that Sandman was just a bag of sand. I don’t know why I never thought of him like that, but now I can’t get that out of my head. Well played, Mr. Conway!

    And I know this was just the update at the start of the episode, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming Blue and Gold series written by Dan Jurgens and drawn by Ryan Sook. Is anyone else excited for this mini-series? I’m really hoping they go to Kahooey Kahooey Kahooey and some of the the other JLI members make cameos.

    Well done again on a thoroughly enjoyable episode! Keep up the great work!

  17. Phew. It’s taken me awhile, but I’m finally “live”. I started with Who’s Who, went on to Secret Origins, then to Knightcast and JLI! And now I’m all caught up! Thank you Shagg, Rob, Ryan and Chris for the many, many hours of entertainment! But now I’ve got to wait until you guys post another episode and not just go onto the next one. Maybe I’ll start listening to music again!

    I’m always amazed at your guests who can all remember their introduction to all the characters. Perhaps I’m just too far removed from those days (I’m older than your average guest) or just as likely, I enjoyed too many ‘recreational’ activities earlier in my life. Either way, I can’t remember exactly when I bought or encountered most of the characters.

    That said, the jog down memory lane with with you guys has been joyous! It’s difficult for me to pull out these issues from my long boxes (I’ve got almost 16,000 books in my collection) so I’m glad most of them are on the DCU app.

    Please keep up the great work, cause I’ll be waiting to listen!

  18. This episode was a blast! JL Detroit came along at just the right time to get me collecting it, so I’ll always have fond memories of it, and discussing it with Gerry was excellent. Well done, Shag.

    As for Vibe’s portrayal, it was interesting that last year I’d read Black Lightning’s original series (Completely at random and for no reason whatsoever! *WINK!*) and was reminded that he also put on a street jive act for the sake of secret identity. But I think it worked better in BL’s comic because: thought balloons from BL could remind the readers it was an act every issue, and he gradually stopped bothering with the act fairly soon aside from calling the JLA a “bunch of jive turkeys”.

    Thanks for sharing this joy.

  19. That was fun and insightful.

    While I was a fan of JLD, I completely understand why it struggled. It wasn’t Gerry’s writing by any stretch. So many people came to a JLA book looking for the JLA or old and the characters they remembered from before, and JLD wasn’t what they were looking for.

    But I was a fan. I wish Aquaman had stayed. Gerry’s portrayal of him in JLD was the most interesting take on the sea king since his own series. Martian Manhunter hadn’t been on earth for years – while I knew who he was, the vast majority of his appearance predated my being a regular reader (of anything, much less JLA) so Gerry’s version became “definitive” in my mind. And while I appreciate the effort with Vibe, the execution was a little clunky. Neither Vibe nor Steel deserved what came to them in the end of the JLD run.

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