JLI Podcast – Formerly Known as the Justice League (2003)

Sean Ross joins The Irredeemable Shag to chat about the 2003 reunion mini-series Formerly Known as the Justice League! Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire are back with Maxwell Lord as he assembles a new superhero team designed to be accessible to the common man. Calling themselves the SUPER BUDDIES and operating from a suburban strip mall, we're reunited with Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Elongated Man, Captain Atom, plus Mary Marvel! We wrap up with YOUR listener feedback!

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27 responses to “JLI Podcast – Formerly Known as the Justice League (2003)

  1. Well, another fine mess… errr, another awesome episode. Sorry Shag, but I found myself nodding and agreeing with pretty much every single point Sean made.
    I actually went back and re read the mini in anticipation for the podcast, something that I didn’t feel the need to do with pretty much any of the previously covered materials which I know by heart. Formerly known came out at a funny time when for economic reasons I has stopped buying floppies and automatic TPB releases were not still the norm (funnily, it was for this series, which came out collected almost immediately). Anyway, I read this digitally, enjoyed it but not particularly, bought it on physical some time later and never revisited. So it was like reading it for the first time. I was very surprised but how much of a dense read it was, especially at the time when the Bendis-ness of it all was taking over. So much dialogue as you mentioned, but also those multi-panel Maguire pages of just people talking and interacting.
    Also, like good critical work, after listening to you I appreciated better some of the things that did not work for me (Mary’s extreme naivete – filling in for Ice and not Cap- or the reasons for the Booster-Beetle tension).
    As for the DiDio “controversy”, yeah, he wrong. As you mention what developed later with these characters (Johns, Dixon, Rucka for Fire!) is BECAUSE JLI and not despite it.

    Two additional notes: We’ve mentioned previously in the podcast about modern coloring in Maguire not always working. Here, it’s beautiful and it actually ADDS to his art.
    As for fire, today instead of a website she would have a OF: OnlyFire.

    1. Best. Comment. Ever.

      “Sorry Shag, but I found myself nodding and agreeing with pretty much every single point Sean made.”

      I’m going to have this tattooed on my face.

  2. Another great episode. I’m glad there will be a Justice Society show to take the place of this one.

    The first Gilligan’s Island reunion movie is one of my favorites. It was a show that was unexpectedly cancelled and needed a reunion movie just so we knew they were ok. And the twist ending at the end was perfect.

    Another “tie up loose ends” from a series which was cancelled unexpectedly is when the cliffhanger in Soap was tied up in a later episode of Benson.

    With all the reunion movies and extra seasons that have been made – most recently X-Men ‘97, That ‘90s Show, Quantum Leap and everything related to Star Trek: Picard – there are a few more I wish had been made, but is too late for most:

    – The Greatest American Hero
    – Misfits of Science
    – Sliders
    – Scrubs (I hear rumors!)
    – Land of the Lost

    I’m holding out hope for the last one: there was that terrible movie made years ago so a lot of people have at least heard of it. The actors who play “Will” and “Holly” are still really active on social media talking about the classic episodes. I think the head Sleestack is still around! Land of the Lost is the perfect example of a show that was cancelled and needs a movie to tie up all the loose ends.

  3. I assume both of the hosts already know the things I’m about to say, but they deserve stating out loud (so to speak).

    A couple of things regarding the sexualization of Mary Marvel:
    1. Compared to comics that come out after this, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
    2. Like her brother, Mary Marvel is a teenager in her civilian identity, but has the body of an adult when powered-up. Thus, when a character like Booster hits on her, he doesn’t actually know that he’s hitting on a teenager. It’s only “questionable” because we know the truth. This kind of thing was also addressed (indeed, much more intentionally) in the JSA series, where Captain Marvel/Billy develops a crush on Stargirl, and the adults (who don’t know that the Captain is really a teenager, himself) call him on it.

    1. That’s what I get for not reading the comic itself before commenting….

      In the scene where Booster is ogling Mary Marvel, Beetle TELLS Booster that she’s only sixteen…. I’ve no idea how he KNOWS that, but it puts the creepy ball totally back in play….

      …even if she DOESN’T look it.

      1. All true, Booster was beyond skeevey here. But when it comes to Maguire’s portrayal of a voluptuous Mary Marvel, which was mentioned in the podcast, that *is* where we need to remember she has an adult woman’s body. Course, the “male gaze” effect is a whole different discussion.

  4. Top 2 reunion tv movies

    2. The knight rider movie
    1. trial of the Incredible Hulk
    The only two I could think of .
    I’ve seen one of the Brady bunch of TV movies but I can’t remember which one.

    1. Ahhh, yes, Knight Rider 2000. Because a futuristic car set in the present day wasn’t enough, let’s do an even more futuristic car, set in the future! (The movie came out in 1991)

      Most of the reunion movies were all of shows that were really before my time (although I of course saw the occasional syndicated rerun), so I don’t really care enough about them to rank them, but I’ll give Return of The Beverly Hillbillies an honorable mention. Not so much to comment on its quality, but rather for the sheer stuck-in-my-brain reality of “Granny’s Maw” being a character to replace the deceased “Granny” actress.

  5. Impressive podcast most impressive. Ah I remember this comic well the talk of it in Wizard and I think seeing it in my local comic store. I think this happened around when I went to college. Not sure. Has been a while. I’m old and what not.

    As for those you could put in. Big Barda maybe or Mr. M. Oh what about the surviving Crimson Fox? I re reading one of them lived. Ah Shagg you just compared yourself to Ted. Ha! My seeing you as the BB of the network. Has been confirmed by you. Bwhaaaa!

    Why does Fire have my Mom’s hair cut? My mom is very pretty, but not seeing Fire with her hair cut. All she needs is Librarian glasses to complete the look.

    Though I’d probably be the one to call WW a b@&ch. Granted I’m one to so guess it’s not much of an insult. Heck I am the ultimate b@&ch. So from me that would be a compliment. Now if I called her a basic b@t@h. Then that would be an insult.

    Though cool Mary and Fire became friends at the end of the issue. Yep Ice died, but she got better. Maybe she was just mostly dead? Anyway she came back in BOP in Gal’s run. Hence why I didn’t say Cannery or Hunters for who should come back.

    I liked Hunters and Cat Man’s romance in that. Rocket Red’s were in that but sadly not Demetri.

    Ah Max using Fire’s smarts against her was great. Also even though she is my spirit animal, Fire is wrong Ralf is at lest a 5. Not a 4. Maybe 7. He’s no Captain Atom or Booster, but still. Girl… Fire just wrong for that. And telling it to Sue as well. I mean yeah Sue is way out of his league, but still.

    Heck the compliment he gave Sue alone should up him up a notch. Sue sees it the mind the good emotional way he treats her and others … save Wally. Oy, on that. Still, yeah I can see why he and Sue work. I’m glad Sue is back among the living, but that story in I. D. Crisis showed why they were the DC couple. Sorry Dick and Babs, Wally and Iris, Bats and Cat Woman . But yeah they are perfect together.

    Oy the Super Buddy Super Friends spot was fun. But, Super Buddies? Geez Max can’t come up with something better than that? Man can charm Fire, BB and Huntress. Still, he can’t think of a better name than that? Geez… how just how? Was he drunk? Did he lose a bet? Super Buddies? I get it’s a bit on the Super Friends, but Oy.

    Does not work. Did his girlfriend’s niece come up with it? So now he uses it so the kid will be happy? He gets a location a crappy one, but a location. Gets the band back together again. Has a big pomp and circumstance. For the team, gets a big media package for em and yet…. He names them the Super Buddies? Oy vey .. he looks like a Meshuggahna when he calls them that. I thought Xtreme Justice was a goofy name, but that seams brilliant by conversion. Was it to expensive to use Sex Bob- Omb ( Will anyone get that joke?) Moving on.

    The Oreo bit ware Bats put one in J’ohn’s hand was great. Ah the one friend who stays the same… I was that person till the E. Now I was appalled at watching a Women’s mud wrestling match on tv at a gym. I am in shock At myself… I’m a normal into weird Kinky stuff… it’s ether the pills or I’m getting old.

    Anyway can’t wait for the next episode.

  6. Formerly Known as the Justice League will always have a special place on my heart for a specific reason. Anyone who’s seen me post on here before or heard the episode Shagg had me as a guest knows that in the 1980s-1990s my dad and I collected comics together and a mutual favorite was JLI. In 2018 he came to visit us for a couple nights and stayed in our guest room, where all my trades, including FKATJL, sit on built in shelves. One morning he emerged from the room chuckling and I asked him what was so funny. He told me read FKATJL (he didn’t even know the series existed) and loved reading about Max, L-Ron, Booster, Beetle, etc. again. We sat and reminisced about our favorite JLI stories. Sadly, he passed away 5 months later. So I love the series for not only making him laugh but sparking a fun conversation in what I didn’t know would be one of the last times I’d get to spend time with him.

    As for the miniseries itself, I think it’s fun. I only wish it’d lived up to the concept, heroes for hire, taking jobs from regular people. Stuff kept happening to the heroes in this series or the next one, but we never get to see them hired by a customer. I feel like the only comic book to fully realize this premise is Power Man & Iron Fist and its descendants.

    I’ve always been confused if Mary Marvel turns into an adult or not when she says SHAZAM. In this series we definitely see her in kid form and transforms into what seems to be an adult. But I could have sworn her and Freddie remained kids after saying the magic word and it was only Billy who turns into an adult.

    While it’s a fun story, this series perpetuates an error made in Kingdom Come that Captain Atom is nuclear/radioactive. I thought he was quantum powered which is a whole other thing (as far as my admittedly non-science self knows).

    Got to defend Cap’s leadership abilities. He was unsure of himself in JLE #1 but he quickly becomes a decisive and effective leader. Exhibit A is him planning the Bialya incursion that gets the Queen Bee off their back without causing an international incident.

    Former Leaguers to add to this story? Metamorpho is a good one. Maybe Bluejay and Dr Light? I think there was a new General Glory by this point that no one did anything with and later got killed off, off-panel in one of Geoff Johns many purges of forgotten characters. I bet Giffen and DeMatteis could’ve done something with him.

    1. “I’ve always been confused if Mary Marvel turns into an adult or not when she says SHAZAM. In this series we definitely see her in kid form and transforms into what seems to be an adult. But I could have sworn her and Freddie remained kids after saying the magic word and it was only Billy who turns into an adult.”

      I’m happy to be corrected here, but I think this is something that may have changed post-Crisis. My understanding is that Freddy does indeed stay physically a teenager (if one healed of his affliction that requires him to use crutches), but that Mary becomes an adult; because Freddy derives his power through Captain Marvel (rather than through the wizard Shazam directly) while Mary gets her power directly through the wizard (corresponding to the names they shout out to summon the lightning).

  7. I’ve been waiting since this show started for this episode. I’m not kidding, either. Formerly Known As The Justice League was a comic I was so hyped for in 2003. And looking back at it today, it’s a wonderful time capsule of where I was at the time. I was twenty and starting my first semester of college–I was late to the college game, so sue me. I got the first issue at a signing at Jim Hanley’s Universe in downtown Manhattan and both GIffen and Maguire were there. I’d met Maguire before but this was my first time talking to Keith Giffen. What a nice guy! And yes, I talked to Maguire again too, because how could you not! The comic itself was like coming back to old friends.

    I got the next two issues at the comic shop that was right across the street from campus. Starting college AND having a comic book store within a block of my school?! I was one lucky dude…sadly that store would close within a few months. I guess I got there when it was on its last legs. But yeah, issue two is my favorite of the bunch. From the “What you mean Four!”, to the erudite gang, to “Fwa-Koooom!”, I hadn’t laughed that hard at a comic in a long time.

    Since I was in school I had to wait a bit before picking up the rest of the series with books and Metrocards being more of a priority, but I managed to get the rest of the series later that year and read it all in one go. That was an amazing afternoon.

    Like the guys mentioned in the episode, it was great to see not only JLI fans champion the mini, but also people who felt they were above the JLI and would often claim “Grant Morrison brought the Justice League back to its former glory, UNLIKE the joke League”. I’d argue this book is why we got a resurgence of our favorite league in the 2000’s. Even when DC did what they did to Sue Dibney, we still held onto the good times in this and I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League.

    This series and some stuff after it are what I consider the last vestiges of MY DC. We had Hush around this time, which is one of the comics I point to DC going in a different direction, but soon we’d see things like Identity Crisis where shock value is placed above logic and what came before. We’d see Batman become even more of a jerk and in his “bat-god, can never show him in a negative light even with other heroes” phase. It was when writers started bringing back silver age versions of characters almost in contempt of the Post-Crisis legacy versions because it wasn’t the version they grew up with. And it was a time when being dark and edgy was the soup of the day. Thankfully it kind of leveled out after 52, but even then we couldn’t ride that high for long because Didio did Countdown saying it was “52 done right”. You see why I enjoy these two mini-series…it was before all this mess.

  8. Who’d want to name themselves after a symbol?

    When I started listening to this I wasn’t expecting a metaphor about how this comic is about growing up and taking on responsibilities, but here we are! I’d also point out that the original JLI run had it’s share of date, even for the times, references but being slightly younger we probably didn’t notice at the time.

    When I got back into comics around the time of 52, the series, which doesn’t seem that long ago, this and I Can’t Believe were some of the first graphic novels I picked up. So this and a vague memory of one punch was my idea of the JLI for quite some time before this podcast.

    So like a lot of people first I have soft fuzzy feeling for these minis above and beyond their quality.

  9. This just in: Podcast host thinks teenage girls aren’t allowed to have breasts!

    OK, that was a bit snarky, but that’s what I got off the discussion for Issue 3’s cover. “She’s a teenager, should she be shown with boobs that big?” Shag, like me you have a teenage daughter. I’m sure you’ve seen that teenage girls have breasts of all different sizes. Just because her FULLY COVERED breasts are on the larger side doesn’t mean that she’s being sexualized, she’s just being shown as a female. It’s not like all girls are flat chested until they hit 18 and then BAM! Like Sean said, that’s a “Savage She-Hulk” pose, complete with slightly ripped clothing that doesn’t show anything.

    Other than that bit, I thought this was a great analysis episode. I had the odd Bwah-ha-ha issue, so I wasn’t really drawn to this series when it came out. I’m glad that it did a good job of moving the characters’ story forward while giving the fans a good feeling of nostalgia. I’m looking forward to Daredevil showing up in the next one. 😉

  10. Regarding Roulette’s heritage: I was about to say that she was originally introduced as the Gambler’s granddaughter, but then I realized I was conflating her with Hazard, another red-haired gambling-themed villain. I initially thought that they were the same character, but apparently they’re not. I kind of wish they WERE the same character, and that her grandparents were the Gambler on one side of the family and Mr. Terrific on the other side, with both sides of her heritage reflecting different views on “Fair Play.”

  11. I loved the JLI and this mini series was like getting the band back together. I really liked that Giffen Dematteis and Maguire were all back together and they brought Marry Marvel with them. I’m also a huge Shazam fan and i fact the reason and the cover to Justice League one with both Batman and Captain Marvel is an all time favorite. Metamorpho and maybe Hawkman (Old Leaguer on the Superbuddies) would have been fun here,

    As for Tv reunion movies, I tend to remember Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man and Dukes of Hazzard ones most. Though Beetle and Booster running into Gilligan on Kooey Kooey Kooey would have been funny.

  12. Ah, Shagg gets a great podcaster for this series, as always. I can’t think of anyone better than Sean “Professor Positive” Ross to have on board. Well done, my friends. The discussion was thorough and delightful as I expected. Well done.

    Oh, but I do have a couple of notes. (Drops full 3-ring binder onto table.) Let’s see… wait, why are these pages damp? Ew, G’NORT! NO! BAD DARKSTAR! BAD!

    Sigh, all right, going from memory instead:
    I love Shagg’s take on Fire’s attitude being because of Mary. It makes issue #4’s scene with Fire trying to talk Mary out of the mind control even better! 5 stars!

    Captain Atom’s depiction is right in line with how tentative he was in JLE. Even up to the giant worm and Starro issues. He’s actually doing ok as leader, but constantly second-guessing himself and surprised at the weirdness they face. No it doesn’t match his solo comic, but it felt close to how Giffen-DeMatteis liked to portray him, so they kept it for the jokes. (Oh, and I read the 80s solo series for the first time, in parallel with this podcast’s coverage. Quick take: ahead of its time, and a great companion series to JLI.)

    Why is Batman’s face always hidden? So we don’t see him grinning, smirking, and trying not to laugh at poor J’onn.

    In issue #1, I thought it implied Fire was wearing clothes in her website’s photos, and her being aflame was just to trick subscribers into thinking she was nude. But in issues 5 and 6, she clearly is wearing Max’s jacket because the clothes she wore had burned up. Did I misread issue 1, or missed something else?

    Now, the Ivy League Gang in issue #2, I just came up with a head canon explanation for their powers. Having re-read Angel and the Ape from 1991 for JLApril (and the mini has cameos of Guy and Beetle as a bonus), the maguffin is the reality bending Green Glob. But I learned this year from Al Sedano that the Glob actually originally appeared in 1960’s issues of Tales of the Unexpected. As the mini-series rebranded it as a teaching machine, I say these students came across the Glob and it’s letting the ILG use its power for their experiment as a street gang. I don’t know if that’s Giffen-esque enough of an idea, but I’m going with it.

    Sean meant to say that Mary Marvel went dark in Countdown to FINAL Crisis, not Infinite. (Still trying to get over helping cover that for DCOCD, but I digress.) And while he’s not credited as much as he should, I believe Giffen was the breakdown artist for the series. That takes place well after FKATJL and ICBINTJL, so those stories can take credit(?) for introducing Bad Mary. Oh dear.

    Lastly, one month to go. AUGH!

    1. Tim – It’s Dr. Positive!

      I totally screwed up the Countdown reference! It’s funny that I did because about once a week I chuckle about Paul Hix not reading Countdown for DCOCD and you being the only kid in class who did the reading.

  13. So I’m one week late to comment and already most of the talking points are covered!

    So I’m going to go with a different thing that perhaps hasn’t been clear. This is the best art I’ve seen Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein for the JLI(sh) ( actually is JLISH maybe the way to describe the Formerly known as and the I can’t believe it’s not runs? ) It’s probably because of the excellent colouring – but for example Captain Atom looks fantastic and in a way I don’t think Kevin and Joe managed before.

    Anyway while I agree that this is supposed to be a JLI show and this isn’t a “JLI Book” – I really wish this episode had expanded out a bit more – maybe two issues per show would have been fair to allow this series to breath because honestly it’s a joy to read and feels as good if not better than some of the JLI run. This isn’t me trying to force Shag to last longer – sorry I mean force Shag to make this SHOW last longer – you know what I meant! But really I think is a disservice to this mini series. Because it is so so good and while not a last hurrah it’s like a comedian making a comeback and being at the height of their powers. I say comedian not because this is a comedy book but because often comedy can flow in and out of fashion and it’s the one form of performance art where it’s just a single performer and the audience. Okay this is a team of people working together but really it’s more than that – Just like Rob Kelly’s Favourite Forever People are fantastic in their own right but come together to form a singular entity of wonder in Infinity Man – Keith Marc Kevin (and Joe) are greater than the sum of their parts in this series. So they just do their own thing and its up to you to decide if you love it. And Love it I did and obviously so did everyone else on this episode (and likely the listeners).

    I’m going to run out of ways to say this but this series is just showing that indeed the creative team did indeed catch lightning in a bottle maybe they just asked Mary to shout into a bottle and quickly closed the lid I’ve no idea. Part of me wonders if perhaps they could have tried this again with Adam Hughes on art – Imagine an ongoing by the Writing team with Adam and Kevin alternating story arcs with pinch hitting by Bart Sears. A book not worried about continuity too much – but similar to how The X-Men Forever book was handled with just the creative team doing their own thing and lighting up the world. Sadly that’s never going to happen now – but I do wonder if there was a time where it was possible – Maybe After 52 before Countdown let it run it’s own Bwah-ha-ha-ha Universe?

    Anyway Sean was a great guest to have back on the show and he brought some keen insight and some great comedy along the way. Just like this mini series didn’t feel like a greatest hits album (in the way breakdowns did) but all new fresh material – Sean didn’t even need to recycle old jokes! I thoroughly enjoyed this listen and I would have been fine with another couple of hours of it as well.

    I do seem to recall that Formerly was the funnier of the two “Super Buddies” series but I think I need another re-read of Can’t Believe it’s not… look what this show has done to me forced me to read comics!!! For that and many other reasons I’m very grateful this show exists and that I stumbled across it.

    Thanks to all and I’m looking forward to the Reunion Podcast for everyone who’s been on the show. I’m awaiting my invite for that which is just held up by international post right? ?

    1. Of course I just realised that The original X-Men Forever WAS pencilled by Kevin Maguire…… Anyway… I’ll get my coat.

  14. Hello from a short-time listener, first-time commenter. Begging your pardon, this could get long-winded.

    I googled my way to this podcast about a year ago while coincidentally working toward the end of a JLI re-read, the first time I’d gone back to the series since I bought (and loved) the floppies off the shelves when they were published. Until that time, I had no idea that there was a corner of the podcast-verse dedicated to comics. I’m still working my way through the show but had to jump ahead to this episode so I could leave a note before the big goodbye.

    Before I found this show, if someone had tried to tell me that listening to a couple of die-hard fans geek out for hours over a 35 (or in this case, 21) year old comic series could be not only entertaining, but compelling, I’d have said they were nuts. But Shag, I gotta tell ya, you’ve proven it can be done, episode after episode, over the past 8+ years. You and your roster of guests consistently manage to thread a needle, providing commentary and insight on the source material that is clearly rooted in passion and appreciation but rarely strays in to fawning; when elements didn’t quite work, you’ve called it out. And at the risk of brown-nosing, I have to say that you are one of the best podcast hosts I’ve come across. You’ve got a great voice for the medium, you bring out the best in your guests, and you’ve made this show fun to listen to. Thanks for giving so much of your time to the show and to the community of fans it has built. I hope it remains available to listeners for many years to come.

    As to FTASTJL: I remember seeing the cover of the first issue in a local comic store that I was visiting after several years away from the medium. It was just luck that I happened to return to a store at the time it was released. I remember seeing the names Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire and thinking, “Holy crap! They got the band back together!” Just like in 1987, I bought (and loved) each issue when it came out. With the exception of Mary Marvel, whose post-Crisis incarnation I was not familiar with, reading FTASJTL felt like catching up with a group of old school friends at a 10-year reunion. I knew who these people were, and it was great to find out where their lives had taken them since I’d seen them last. This series, with a handful of others out at that time, made me a regular comics reader again.

    I remember being really excited that a sequel series would soon follow, and hoping that it might morph into an ongoing or at least a recurring set of limited series. And I was very disappointed when that prospect got Crisis-ed away.

    Shag and Sean, thanks (again) for another enjoyable listen.

  15. This was a great, great episode, and I hate to say this, because everyone you have had on has been great, but Sean might be my favorite guest. There was an energy he had covering these issues that just swept me right off my feet! And matched with your own brand of positive energy made the pod a breeze to listen to and the good vibes were infectious.

    Even though you mentioned this series way back in the beginning of this pod, during the Carter Administration, I held off reading it until you got to this episode. I knew I had a long wait ahead of me. Well, actually, since I binged 13 years of episodes in a few months, it didn’t take that long. Anyway, I was so happy to finally read this reunion and get to hear you both unpack it as if it were some new release. And to wait so long to read Giffen/DeMatteis/MacGuire Justice League content felt like I had been denying myself something like, say a rich, decadent cheesecake, for over 30 years, and then I was able to dive inside a giant house sized cheesecake and ate it from the inside out. Or something like that. You know what I mean.

    There was so much to love about this, and everything you both said here really covered it and there isn’t too much to add. This series was familiar, but also new. It didn’t read like a retread or a greatest hits album. There were changes, and characters weren’t the same as they were, but they also still felt like they fit right into that old JLI magic.

    As a side note: I always wished that JM wrote the dialogue on JLE, simply because of Ralph and Sue. While they were great in that book, I always felt DeMatteis has a knack for writing dialogue for married couples in a way that captures this wonderful banter that isn’t cruel, and it makes me wish there was some kind of JM DeMatteis series about them.

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