JLI Podcast #58 – BREAKDOWNS: Justice League America #58 & Justice League Europe #34

BREAKDOWNS continues! Jake and Warren join The Irredeemable Shag to chat about Justice League America #58! It's a knock-down-drag-out brawl with Despero & Lobo, while Lord Havok stalks Silver Sorceress! Then Symbol Pending stops by to discuss Justice League Europe #34! L-Ron devises a plan to defeat Despero & our heroes discover Max is possessed by Dreamslayer! Finally, we wrap up with YOUR listener feedback!

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32 responses to “JLI Podcast #58 – BREAKDOWNS: Justice League America #58 & Justice League Europe #34

  1. First to comment, WOO-HOO!

    Back in JL-May in 2023, the year of our Lord Havoc, I was Shag’s guest, covering Brave and the Bold 23, and Shag let me in on a secret. In the virtual green room, he told me that Symbol Pending would be an upcoming guest. Since then, I have been eagerly awaiting my nemesis’ BWAHAHA podcast debut. Some nights, I would wake up in a cold sweat. Would he really take me down a peg and demonstrate that he truly is Power Girl’s biggest fan? Would he mock me for my sometimes spotty knowledge of some of the more obscure points in PG’s history? He did all that and more. I announce that I submit… Symbol Pending is the greatest Power Girl fan of all time!

    It’s not simply because his moniker is actually SYMBOL PENDING. It’s not that he’s devoted years to a blog about Power Girl. It’s for one simple reason…


    The “Paige” Power Girl run is so roundly hated by fans on the interwebs that to say anything nice about it truly demonstrates that Symbol Pending will like any depiction of Power Girl, even if she was tuned a powerless, brunette, hobbit. That’s devotion!

    I will adjust my claim as the greatest Power Girl fan ever to the “Greatest SANE Power Girl Fan Ever.”

    In all seriousness, it was great to finally hear Symbol Pending on my favorite podcast. We have chatted a bit here and there via Direct Messenger. Cheers to you SP. Cheers to you.

    (Lastly, Symbol Pending is way too nice for giving you a pass on the pronunciation of YEAT’s name.)

    1. Awww, that’s super sweet of you to say! If it makes you feel any better I really didn’t like Kara in that One-Star Squadron mini, though I figure that I’m probably the only person to have read that one!

        1. It’s a decent enough Red Tornado story if he was Vision, but everything else is all over the shop. I’m generally live and let live with continuity but I agree it works better as a Elseworlds.

      1. Agreed, I thought One-Star Squadron was okay but Power Girl didn’t seem like Power Girl to me. And I’m weary of the JLI characters being made out to be sad sack has-beens in different DC comics.

  2. A brave move of Shag to go from JLA #58 straight to listener feedback but there you go! 😀

    Joking aside Shag was a very generous host and I had a lot of fun recording, and hopefully made a few salient points along the way!

  3. My favorte Keith Giffren is 2005 Defenders A it explains why doctor Strange likes the sub-mariner. And heavens if you look at the Sub-mariner You better explain why somebody likes him!

  4. I have to say I read This League Era in three months in college in 2017, and a few moments that live free in my mind are in Breakdowns: – Guy asking Metamorpho where is Captain Atom when he was just declared dead (for me this was an even bigger act of jerk than hitting Blue Beetle) , General Glory not wanting to give a speech, (there are still 4 others but they are in the epilogue and I don’t want to give spoilers).
    BUT TED SAVING THE DAY IS THE MOMENT I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS WAITING FOR. (remembering that he single-handedly defeated a villain that the European league couldn’t beat together) #BLUEBEETLEFORTHEWIN

  5. 1 I Know Power Girl had a secret id named Karen starr but ive Never seen her do ANYTHING!
    2 wAIT here’s a simple question, why ARE THERE so few Batman Lobo team ups Batman is a fairly normal guy who ends up in space a whole lot and lobo is a space dude who ends up on earth a lot. Granted they’ve met more than Batman and shazam!
    3 I LOVE morrison’s Jla! but siskiokd is right! they are rather gleeful silver age re-telling so i was always disapponted Martian manhunter did not get REALLY big in his solo book and get replaced by Captain Comet? What do I need to do? MORE Captain COMET!

  6. A wonderful show as always, and a thoughtful and sensitive introduction, Shag. I hope all JLI fans will look back on Mr Giffen’s body of work with thankfulness and happy memories.
    For my own part, my favourite non-JLI Giffen series is The Heckler – an all-too-short 6 issues of wise-cracking Looney Tunes fun merged with a hitherto unexplored corner of the DCU. (Would love to cover this series on a podcast, someday, Shag *hint, hint!*)
    I also want to shoutout an unsung role that Mr Giffen played coordinating the masterwork that was the groundbreaking weekly 52 series. Keith was the glue that held that incredible achievement together; a feat that only a true comics professional could pull off.

  7. Another great episode and guest wow South Africa. Just wondering have you ever seen the miraculous tales of lady bug a cat noir . This series has five seasons 4 movies . As well as manga series. It might five as there is a Christmas special.
    Just wondering if any on else here has seen this series and there or your thoughts. And yes one of the heroes does have to act almost like the doctor keep the time line intact she shows up in season three episode 18 and introduces a new member to the team .

  8. Hey Shag, another great show with great guests. Congratulations on filling your continent bingo card, I absolutely agree with your logic on Antarctica.
    Your message about Keith G was also well done. I’m sure you’ve seen his last social media post about doing anything to avoid NY Comic Con. Classic way to go.
    So the end of Breakdowns is reminding me of the end of my initial comic reading days. I read a few post-Justice League Spectacular issues and didn’t love it so that left my pull list down to Sandman.
    I am hoping that you’ll continue to make episodes about the post-breakdown mini series that reunited these characters as the Super Buddies. I’ll be sad to see the pod cast complete the run and fade into the sunset over the secret sanctuary in New Jersey or Rhode Island or wherever it actually is.

  9. Either Shag is a planning genius or it’s a coincidence that all of his guests came into comics thanks to Supes, and then went on to have an almost unhealthy obsession with a single character!

    Whilst I’m also generally not a fan of extended fight scenes, JLA #58 get’s away with it by sprinkling in little moments with the characters. Personally I really like the moments with Bea flying above the underwater fight, not being able to help due to the nature of her powers, it rare we get any interspection from the character so it’s a welcome change.

  10. I’m going to separate my Keith Giffen thoughts and my reaction to the pod in the replies. Otherwise it would all look like a wall of text.

    Now, if I’m being honest, I was not a fan of Giffen at the beginning. His art was weird. The storytelling was dense and funky. These packed 9 panel grids and close-ups of a characters teeth. Everyone had large foreheads and gangly arms and long torsos. I didn’t get it.

    And sometimes his writing was even harder to get through. He was always world building. You felt like you were always jumping in the middle of some larger story he had been writing for decades and you missed something.

    A Giffen book required you to pay attention, and I didn’t want to pay attention. I wanted splash pages and fights and a straightforward plot. It was frustrating to find a random issue in a series I was collecting that he was attached to, because I knew I wasn’t getting an easy book to read.

    And then something clicked. Suddenly, the art wasn’t dense and weird. It was interesting and had texture to it. It was bold and creative. His writing suddenly made sense. The pacing of the 9 panel grids seemed obvious. It was storytelling at its best. I just had to slow down and give myself time to adjust to his gear.

    And when I did that, it opened up a wonderful, beautiful, frightening, satirical, cranky and sometimes infuriating world of adventures that didn’t always do what you expected them to do.

    And then, when I felt like I had it all figured out, he’d change it up and come at you from a different angle and I had to learn his language all over again.

    Giffen’s work was everywhere in my comic collecting heyday. I don’t think there is a book he didn’t touch at one point or another. And he gave us every kind of story you could want.

    It’s a weird feeling to see the people whose work you grew up with pass away. Keith Giffen was an institution, creating comics before I bought my first one and after I got my last. And while he may no longer be able to give us new adventures moving forward, there are so many books out there with his name attached that are just waiting to be picked up, dusted off and rediscovered over and over again.

    Keith Giffen will entertain, challenge, and frustrate fans for a very long time. And that sounds like something hed be okay with.

  11. It’s been said countless times but the artwork on these books is still amazing years later. This is one of my favorite Justice League stories. The right blend of action, humour, danger and heart.

  12. I haven’t time right now to go into depth on this most excellent of episodes with great guests but I do have time right now to nitpick. You can’t claim “Rob Kelly” on your continental bingo card for Antarctica that’s cheating!
    Secondly until this episode and the shared art commissions of Blue Beetle and Guy and Ice I used to consider McGuire the best JLI artist of all time however on further review seeing that BB on the Loo art I must now shame him. It is frankly just bad, and for an artist who is supposed to be good at detail it’s a disgrace… The Loo Paper is the wrong way round! I bet Adam Hughes didn’t draw the bog roll the wrong way nor Mike McKone!

  13. I believe I mentioned when I guested on the show that I came back to comics in early 88. Keith was doing JLI. And Legion. And Invasion. And launching L.E.G.I.O.N. For me Keith WAS comics, my favorite creator from my favorite era. I like many creators, I love Keith. He was and always be the one. And have so many feelings that I did a video on him a couple of years back, have a whole podcast dedicated to his 5YL Legion and recently guested on an impromptu homage with other fellow local podcasters (BTW Shagg, thank for sharing). And I will probably go on paying my respects while I can.

    As for the show: Sears. Wow. That was a breath of fresh air. And a thrill to see him doing the JLA characters (his Guy is unbeatable). And who would have guessed the pathos would come from L-Ron? Loved the “Booster is the cavalry” moment.

    SP was a great guest and I felt he made a very nice point about the PG counterpoint with Huntress and the effect it had on the character.

  14. RIP Keith Giffen. I knew him from JLI and Ambush Bug, but his work on JLI is some of my favorite comics of all time. I rank the Giffen/DeMatteis team up there with Chris Claremont on X-Men, Roger Stern, on Avengers, Fabian Nicieza on New Warriors, and David Micheline and Bob Layton on Iron Man as my favorite comic book writers/runs of all time. When I pared down my comic collection a few years ago, I was sure to keep all my beloved JLI/A/E/Q. I’ve been an avid follower of the JLI Podcast since I discovered it in 2020, and I even was a guest on an episode. If all of that doesn’t tell you the scope of my Giffen fandom, I don’t know what would. 🙂 Mr. Giffen leaves a legacy of entertainment that will never be forgotten and made an indelible impact. All these years later and people are still talking about JLI. How many comic book runs can we say that about? His work brought so much joy to myself and my family growing up. Some of you know that when I was a kid/teen I collected comics with my dad. I can tell you my dad was talking about and quoting Manga Khan, Scarlet Skier, L-Ron, Maxwell Lord, the Injustice League, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, etc. right up through the 2010’s and until he passed away in 2018. Mr. Giffen leaves a legacy of joy. How many people can say that? He will be missed. Also, Ambush Bug was breaking the fourth wall wayyyyy before Deadpool ever did it. 🙂 And, Keith Giffen’s work on JLI has influenced my own writing: the wacky situations, the characterizations, the banter between the characters…my books have the DNA of the JLI in them for sure!

    Interesting parallels with the last Despero story in JLI: Ice was unceremoniously knocked out of the fight then, too, hit by flying debris, if I recall correctly. They REALLY didn’t want her fighting Despero, apparently. She’s even MORE unceremoniously taken out of the action here…I never even noticed it until you pointed it out in the podcast! Also, the last Despero fight ALSO ended early in issue 40…on page 11, when J’onn’s psychic “gift” takes effect and Despero’s embryonic form falls to Earth.

    I too am disappointed at the Injustice League fleeing. A lot of work had been done to move these guys from has-been villains to at least nominal heroes. I never thought about this being the last time we this iteration of the IJ and that is sad. From there on out, they either get ignored, killed off, or turned grim & gritty. It would’ve been great to see them help take on Lord Havok! I got to figure Big Sir could’ve gotten some licks in, and surely Multi-Man could have manifested some useful powers. But it would’ve been a trip to see someone like Clock King, Cluemaster, or the Mighty Bruce be instrumental in taking Havok down.

    Disappointing use of the Conglomerate. I agree they’re a bit underpowered, but really, Echo should be a formidable opponent. She can reflect any attack directed against her back at it’s source! Ideally, she’s invincible! Overall, the Conglomerate is a neat concept that didn’t get a chance. I wonder if the hope after JLQ #1 was for a spin-off series starring them, led by Booster, but it never happened? If Giffen and DeMatteis had a longer JLI run, would the Conglomerate gotten featured more? As it is, I think Praxis is lurking around on the fringes of magic-centered stories from time to time, Maxi-Man died off panel in Roulette’s arena, I have no idea what Reverb’s status is now that Vibe is back in the DCU, and Vapor and Echo have been completely forgotten about as far as I can tell. Mitch Wacky as the JLI handyman kind of suffered the same fate and is killed off pretty unceremoniously in Breakdowns. Honestly, he’s in the same boat as Bluejay and Silver Sorceress, though they at least showed up in group shots.

    I was the guest on the JLE episode where the Extremists were discovered to be robots and Beetle’s method of disposing of Lord Havok here proves the point I made back then: once the JLE found out the Extremists were robots, it should have been gloves off! Captain Atom should’ve been able to blow them to smithereens single-handedly! And definitely they should have dumped the robots into the sun or something instead of placing them on display. But this kvetching is ground already covered in the past. And I am probably thinking about all of it too hard, as usual. 🙂

  15. Impressive podcast most impressive. Sorry I’m late on the feed back. I’ve been reading old Connan stories. And lost track of time. Mostly cause I started collecting Animal Warriors of the Kingdom. It’s a local company. So I started collecting them. Any way. Sorry to hear Keith died. He was a great artist and writer. Though as a Christian I’m kind of worried he may come back as a guardian Angel.

    Just imagine the poor sod whom gets him as their guardian Angel. Any way I’ve liked his work for years. My fav though was Pun X. Don’t ask. I have issues. And Ambush Bug. Whom was even more popular than Lobo at one time. Till Dead Pool stole his Gimmick. This was before She – Hulk. So ha.

    That and Lobo’s back. Especially the issue ware Lobo comes back as a Woman. And General Glory was in it. Any way this was a cool issue. With Lobo fighting the warped version of a Ken doll. I now see Despro singing a version of the song “ I’m Ken-enough.” There that dance number with Despro in Kens place is now in every one’s mind.

    Moving on. Ah the JL Antarctic chickened out. Boo. But of course the true hero Beef Eater is there to save the day. The fight ended well enough. Didn’t need any more. Ah wish L- Ron had stayed on. Ah well. Ah cool the Exremists are gone. Awsome job Ted. Still what is Dream Slayer waring? No the eyes do nothing.

    He looks like a bad Halloween costume. A gender bent version of Dark Justice. I. E. Misfit. So dream Slayer Max is now to me Misfit 2. Electric boogaloo. Was cool to see the Conglomerate. Ah the Welcome to Small vile comic Oy. Just Oy. Look if you thought PG becoming Page was bad. Oy what they did to Fire in that comic.

    Still this was a cool comic can’t wait for the next issue.

  16. Now you’ve done it, Shagg. You’ve conquered every continent with this podcast! The world is yours! MWAH-HAH-HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

    Sorry, stupid Mephisto snuck into my office and used my laptop. Dang it, Cheetos everywhere!

    I am so impressed that there’s still *new* guests to have on the show! It’s always wonderful that you can keep things fresh with new people, like a team-up comic. The guys this time were no exception, and made a fun conversation yet again. Well done, all.

    JLA #58: Thank goodness Bart Sears is back! My memory keeps tricking me that he did more issues of Breakdowns, but no, he just swoops in near the end to save the day. And boy howdy, did he deliver in this issue. That fight sequence on page 16 with Despero pounding J’onn is one of my favorite dynamic sequences in comics. I feel the hits every time. And Guy’s face after the pounding by Lobo, still trying to stay in the game, just fantastic, and honestly one of Guy’s best hero moments.

    Another great hero moment is Dmitri. I’ve long been his biggest supporter, and sadly, he hasn’t gotten to shine much in Breakdowns. But here, against Despero, leading him away from the city and taking the brunt of his attack says it all. Yes he has that powerful armor, but he’s just an ordinary man under it. J’onn said it, and I support it. Dmitri’s the best of them.

    And of course, Beetle’s hero moment! I mean, come on! Who didn’t fist pump on that page?! BOOM YES!

    As for J’onn stretching, the only other time I recall is JLI #18, the first round against Lobo. Depicted by Maguire, the stretching is pretty amazing. Now random tidbit I learned last year reading JLA volume 1. J’onn’s power was described as “physical mimicking” rather than “shape shifting” back in the 60s. So he only started stretching by specifically mimicking … the Elongated Man! Sure, shape shifting is a simpler way to describe the power, but there’s something appealing about the old days when the terminology was still being refined.

    JLE #34: While it wasn’t said in the story, I appreciate Booster having a chance to fight Despero, as he missed the previous big battle, which lead to the “death” of Mr Miracle, one of Booster’s close friends. This gives him a chance to redeem himself for missing that first fight. It also fits with him getting so emotional during the fight this issue.

    So Rex says to Kara “Maybe that konk on the noggin was good for ya.” Wait, is that a callback to Nice Guy from a konk on his noggin? Nah, I don’t really think it’s on purpose, but THAT’S the callback Breakdowns has been missing, and there it is!

    Well, I can’t put it off any longer. Keith Giffen. The first time I saw his art was browsing that Pre-Crisis issue of Action Comics where Ambush Bug swapped bodies with Superman, and thinking “huh, this is odd.” Then I browsed the Ambush Bug mini-series. His work was starting to intrigue me, but money was a little tight so I didn’t pull the trigger. And then came Justice League #1. Now, I couldn’t get enough Giffen, either as writer or artist. My college buddy who was selling comics to prepare for opening his own shop sold me lots of Giffen’s Legion issues, and I was hooked. Now I admit, I haven’t been able to keep up with everything he’s worked on. But I do have all of his Ambush Bug issues, L.E.G.I.O.N., that Doom Patrol series (with Metal Men backup as a glorious JLI reunion), the end of the Legion Baxter series right thru 5YL, and lots more. Particular gem is Secret Origins featuring the Creeper. Wow, it’s so … creepy!

    I was lucky enough to meet Keith at Heroes Con a few years ago, he signed some of my comics (especially JLI of course), and was just as funny and cranky as you expect. His blunt “they were kicking me off Legion, so I blew up the Earth” in a panel was hilarious. I’m so glad I had the chance to tell him that JLI is my favorite superhero comic series. And I just wish I had a chance to tell him again. He was an original. RIP, sir.

    And now I’m crying. THANKS, SHAGG! Seriously, that felt good. I’ve been so busy with life, there’s been no time to write about this yet. Glad to do it here with y’all.

    See you next time.

  17. This was a fun pod to listen to. All of the different viewpoints & new voices joining you to cover these issues really had me sit back and take a moment to appreciate how packed Breakdowns is with characters. While we can quibble about some of them not getting enough to do, overall, it is an impressive balancing act.

    I also loved the idea of splitting Breakdowns up into 3 acts. Act 1: 6 issues with Bialya & the Global Guardians. Act 2: 6 issues with Despero, Lobo, and Manga Kahn. And now we enter the 3rd act with Dreamslayer.

    Act 1 was not great, if i am being fair, but I think I enjoyed Act 2 of Breakdowns more than Glory Bound (The General Glory 5 issue story arc). And I’d go so far as to say, if these six issues were drawn by an Adam Hughes or Ty Templeton, it would be considered one of the better arcs in the Giffen-DeMatteis run.

    Lastly, I keep hearing criticism about how Breakdowns doesn’t have any stakes, and I think, as an overall audience, we’ve been ruined by shows like Game of Thrones or The Boys to consider the only real stakes a story can have, is death.

    I’ve always felt, unless it made sense for the plot, killing a main character was a cheap and easy way to manipulate your audience and it also, can desensitize us to character deaths, so much so that we come to expect it. And then, in our never-ending pursuit of “real stakes” we end up with a demon facilitating a divorce. No one wants that.

    No one ever really dies in a comic book. Which was even touched upon here, as J’onn and the Silver Sorceress discuss Dreamslayer’s return.

    For my money, Breakdowns has plenty of stakes. Max not being in control of his body. The change of leadership in Bialya.The JLI losing its charter. L-Ron leaving. Hell, Ted having to figure out how to overcome an eating disorder. Those are all stakes. Some may be small, human consequences, but they can still hold weight.

    In a sense, that’s what this entire Giffen-DeMatteis run has been about. The humanity of these characters in-between the action that they capture with humor, friendships, romances, arguments, money problems, and sometimes, failed gambling resorts.

  18. Shag, terrific new guests on what look like great issues! I didn’t have these, so this felt like friends telling me about a great comic they read. Symbol Pending, that was an excellent podcast debut. You were funny, you gave Shag a hard time, you brought good insights, and you kept moving. Jake and Warren, all the same to you, but I got the impression you’re old pros. I agree with SP about the extended fights being much better with character bits.

    Regarding Keith Giffen’s passing, I’ve said this on other media, but I’ll repost it here with apologies for any who’ve seen it: Shag, I keep thinking of JLA #50, which featured Keith and several other creators in the second story, and our discussion of it on the podcast. The story portrayed Keith as a little crazy, dramatically expressing strong opinions over everything that had to do with JLI. If I remember right, you asked if I’d ever met Keith or heard him in an interview, and I admitted that I’d only enjoyed his work. You told me, “Well, he’s really a lot like this.” This parody was even funnier when I knew it was only a slight exaggeration. I’m glad he felt so strongly about his work.

    Reading the comments above reminded me specifically of Ambush Bug, The Great Darkness Saga, and of course, JLI. We’ll all miss him, but I’m glad he left so much great work behind.

  19. Thanks for another splendid episode, and yet more fresh guests, all of whom were splendid.

    I like the Justice League #58 cover, but never understood the maths – Lobo + Despero – the Justice League? Lobo + Despero… splotchy red line? I also think Despero looks very goofy… not necessarily a bad thing.

    The one thing I really don’t like about Bart Sears’ JL art – Catherine Colbert’s hair – that crown is huge she looks like the love child of Koriand’r and Hector Hammond.

    Regarding the idea that Power Girl changing her civilian name is in any way needed, well, I’m not down with that. The idea that Karen is a ruined name is wrong, like the notion that the Punisher has to change his chest emblem because real-life morons have adopted it – Karen had her name first, before the dog-walker controversy. Power Girl is Karen Starr, not Paige Bleeding Stetler.

    Many thanks for the kind words, Symbol Pending, it was such fun to work on those old DC reprints. But please, never say ‘Elronspero’ again!

  20. Late to the party. Not reading the 28 preceding comments. I’ll have to touch on Keith Giffen’s passing every time I bring him up for the rest of my life, so I’m not getting into it right this minute.

    I still remember Bart Sears making a big deal about telling Giffen he would no longer be following his breakdowns, right around the time he was leaving JLE to do the “Faith” arc in LOTDK. And then when he comes back for a fill-in, he’s following the breakdowns. And then on Eclipso, Sears is still following the breakdowns, with Giffen doing uncredited pages that Bart couldn’t get finished in time. But hey, Bart didn’t follow Giffen’s breakdowns on all his other work after Giffen, to the chagrin of his other writers and seeming his readers as the audience for his overly designed but narratively negligent pages shrank. I still love Bart’s style, but he has to stick to pin-ups, which was more or less all Ominous Press was anyway.

    That said, “Breakdowns” is interminable and needed some flashy spectacle at this point. His Lobo’s a bit too clean for me and his Despero looks a little puffy, but these pages are the Sistine Chapel in comparison to Wozniak. I’m sure I’m just another voice in a chorus, but Manhunter is trying to lasso Despero with his, the Kalanorian rips the arm loose, and then whips it to slam the off-screen Martian to the ground. It’s not great storytelling, but it’s decipherable.

    I know the JLI is facing overwhelming threats at the moment, but I think simultaneously addressing Despero on one front and Lord Havok on the other just make them look inadequate. I mean, technically the J.L.A. and J.L.E. probably had overlapping arcs in their individual titles, but their now being intertwined makes it feel like they’re out of their depth. It would help if there was one overarching mastermind, but it’s just that all these threats that the JLI should have definitely sorted were half-assed dealt with all came home to bite said ass at the same time. Wait– did we ever sort out who shot Maxwell Lord? Was it Bialya/Queen Bee? But then Dreamslayer possesses Max? It’s not like Bane blew up Arkham International and let everybody out all at once. The JLi just left all these menaces on the burner until all of their burners were engaged indefinitely and the kitchen was set on fire. Back in the ’80s, a lot of comics made hay about ankle-biting yellow journalism attacking heroes for ratings. Today, John Oliver would do an episode on how Manga Khan isn’t an effective alternative to formal incarceration, and we’d all be like “yeah, what about that JLI spox?”

    Possibly the most humiliating moment in Martian Manhunter’s career, and he’s had quite a few, is being saved from immolation by The Conglomerate. Never mind that Booster Gold should be serving time at that moment for embezzlement, but the rest? Without a display of powers, these clowns might as well be the Guardian Angels. What are you gonna do– escort Despero back past the turnstile to pay for his subway token? I’m sure he’s shaking in his complete absence of apparel over Fart-Lass & The Fonzies. It looks less like Booster is standing boldly before his teammates and more like he’s asked The Flash to help him cover them up. “Pay no attention to the team directly behind me! Ignore… The Configuration! [yes-that’s-gypsy-shut-up]”

    Meanwhile, Blue Beetle (who should also be in jail) steals from Kitty Pryde’s theft from Ellen Ripley to fry the bad guy in jet flames. Here’s an idea– maybe melt the Extremists to slag right after you beat them the first time. Do you have Superman on your team? Then no fully-functional killbots in your trophy room. You’re not mature enough to take proper care of your killbots, so you can’t keep it.

    Oh, and I’ll confess that I didn’t immediately catch the math problem on the cover. I just thought it was odd use of Japanese writing until it hit me at some undefined point after having read that issue. It reminds me of the time I asked my English teacher if the novel continuing the story of E.T. was worth reading, and she spelled out that it was D.U.M.B., but I over-thought that it was an acronym and looked D.U.M.B. myself. The cover premise is so dumb that my brain couldn’t sink to its level at first.

    Justice League Europe #58 answers my question– that the Conglomerate can be a cannon fodder distraction in panels from the first six pages where Flash, Booster, or Lobo aren’t doing something. The entire team runs at him all at once, but nobody makes physical contact, and only Reverb seems to use his powers against Despero. You’ve got this entire team, but they just pull Fire, Ice, Silver Sorceress, Elongated Man and Bluejay out of nowhere because they realized when they came back from the break that there’s no way they’re putting the Conglomerate over. Might as well pit Despero against soap bubbles. Kilowog’s garage door opener is more effective. Before Shag asked if these “Breakdowns” chapters deserve their bad rep, he should have prefaced with “and remember, the Conglomerate are in these issues.” Cue imperial thumbs-down. And hey, I’m really glad the action resolved on page six so that we can spend the rest of the issue talking. Imagining all the the thirteen-year-olds in 1992 with four shiny quarters in their fist waiting to buy their copy of Justice League Meeting Minutes Monthly. At least Darick Robertson got in multiple high quality variations on that one Garry Leach hate-grinning Johnny Bates panel from Miracleman.

    How did I like these issues? Well, I quit buying “Breakdowns” with chapter 12 of fifteen. I was 80% through, and these issues were admittedly an uptick, and still went “nah, I’m good,” knowing full well that I was still buying J.L.A. #60. So yes, reputation well earned.

  21. Well I finally get round to leaving a proper comment and then I see I’ve got to follow Frank’s replies which if I’m honest was er…. very Frank?

    This puts me in a tough situation as so many of you have already commented with lovely text that I just haven’t had time to read. I’ll start off with my review of the episode in question then it’s on to the Keith Giffen thoughts.

    So lets start off with the excellent guests on this episode – it was great to hear new voices and new accents as well. Jake and Warren were an excellent double act and are certainly dedicated and great ambasadors for SA JLI Fans. To hear their sense of humour come through certainly made me smile considerablly – a nice thing to happen after we’d just had the sad news of Keith Giffen. Top Marks to Jake as another Ted Kord Fan and I loved to see the art of Ted on the bog that Warren arranged. It also made me laugh that here was another Ted Kord fan having an “interesting” meeting in a Car Park! Also Jake’s stories about hunting for comics on newstands brings back memories of my years of collecting like that in my youth.

    As for Symbol Pending. It was so nice to finally be able to put a voice to a name that I’ve seen many times online and of course in the comments on here. I believe this was Symbol’s first Podcast appearance and he was brilliant. However I do recall that John Koos has a pair of appearances (okay one of them was to talk about Magog so maybe it’s part punishment) and SP has only appeared once – so it’s only fair that SP gets another shot to balance out all things Power Girl in his favour! His love for Karen (NEVER PAIGE) shines through and I hope that this was recorded before the latest mini series actually got published (I have to admit I am REALLY struggling with) as at least SP sounds opptimistic for it indeed I’d almost say he sounds chipper! I disagree with the whole Paige name and agree it’s forced, but my daughter suggested she chould have changed her name to a different spelling of Kara – such as the Irish version of Cara. It would have worked well with the whole way Kal-L and Kal-El worked. As for SP’s experience in finding DC Comics on the shelves I wonder if perhaps I was lucky to have the newsagents where I lived have so many DC packs dropped off (maybe because we were close to the coast as they were all shipped over by boat). I also LOVED the currency of penny chews I remember those days or even tuppenny chews (often McCowans Toffee).


    Now to the Comics covered. Bart Sears is back on the ART things are going to be great…. Only I don’t know, this Bart Sears style seems to be a little different than JLE, maybe it’s the break between his issues but the seemingly extra muscles on the likes of Blue Beetle is a little odd. I can’t figure out if this due to the different inkers or the colouring and it’s not muscles so much as creases and folds in clothes etc. However even if it was a little different to my eyes (and I can maybe see where the line from Hughes to Sears that Chris Woznick was maybe trying to balance so maybe I was a little too harsh on him), it still looks great and Sears brings a level of kenetic energy to the fights that I loved.

    At the time I think I felt it was almost too much to have so many serious threats to deal with at same time – Lobo , Despero and the Extremists that’s not how comic teams normally work it’s face one threat then the next not all at the same time unless it’s a villian team up. Now with 48 (for a few more days) experience I realise that this EXACTLY how life goes – lots of things happening at the same time and it’s a juggling act to keep things going far less deal with the biggest threats. So maybe again I might have thought worse of Breakdowns at the time than I do now at least this section. Imagine me thinking that Teams of Superheroes and Aliens fighting wasn’t realistic at the time because I felt it was silly to have so many things going on concurrently!

    I know it’s a long battle but some how it doesnt feel decompressed at all compared to current comics when they take a long fight. There feels there is a proper pace – and I think we can all base that on Keith Giffen’s work.

    For JLE I’ll start again with the art. It’s perfect, it really is. While the fight finally wraps up quickly and even more amazingly features Silver Sorceress in battle, I’ve no idea what her power levels and magic skills were but it occurs to me that she is a character who certainly could come back and produce an interesting spin on how magic might work from another planet…. Certainly there’s a lot of potential there for her and Blue Jay as they could travel this…. ah who am I kidding no-one wants to read about her or even Blue Jay. If they come back stick them in with the Freedom Fighters or something where we don’t need to deal with them, sure they’ve been badly handled but they don’t even deserve to be in Who’s Who properly. Fingers crossed we can just write them out of the series soon…. (foreshadowing folks).

    Anyway it’s not the fighting sections that the art sings it’s actually to me the post fight scenes. The Lobo/Booster head to head, Power Girl in the Cave, Beetle dropping off Booster and those last pages of Max… All of them look fantastic and really in the tradition of the facial expressions of JLI era. Also I’d argue that Darrick Robertson has drawn the best Power Girl in and of the books. I do like that costume but she looks great and more athletic than a power lifter style. However in all of this the facial experession of the dispare of Silver Sorceress really stands out even to the point I wondered if someone modelled this look.

    The loss of L-Ron to is felt as I loved his comedy – thankfully he’s reappeared in another JLI related comic book recently (Spoilers – Welcome to Smallville) and it was odd how we never see Lobo leaving he just disappears off panel. But even with only L-Ron leaving the rest of the team is starting to feel that it is holding together by their fingernails – maybe some gum, paper clip and sawdust. If perhaps this had been the last issue with the damage of Despero causing the team to quit without the needed to have the Extremists appear at all I’d have been okay. But I guess the Extremists and Max are the last of the greatest hits to play out before the end.

    I still don’t like the talk AGAIN about PG’s mood swings and the set up for the whole diet soda crap. There is one other thing that occured to me, I don’t think Despero ever faced off against the similarly “shaped” Captain Atom. I’m sure Kieth was cheated of a few jokes on that front.


    Now my thoughts on Keith Giffen.

    I grew up reading DC comics probably from aged 6 based on the issues I have from my youth. I recall seeing Keith’s Art on Legion Issues – part of The Great Darkness Saga without knowing anything else going on! So I knew His art from his “Perez” years on LSH I certainly was reading some of the newstand printings of LSH when they appeared but I didn’t realise back then how much of an influence his storytelling would be on my DC tastes. I was 12 when JL #1 hit the stands. I Remember the set up in the last page of Legends which was the only issue I actually had back in the day (it’s amazing when I think about the gaps in my collection that I was still able to figure out what had been happening in the other DC books – heck I didn’t even see the end of COIE until years later). That art by Kevin McGuire stood out, but it was the tone of the book that grabbed me. I’d likely still have bought Justice League anyway, but I might not have loved it and I am certain that is all because of Keith Giffen and his approach.

    Once I was able to access a local comic store (I say local I lived two hours away from one and I didn’t have my own transport) everything changed for me. This was about the time that Keith was effectively the architect of the non Trinity books of the DCU. JLI soon lead to Invasion, which lead to JLE and L.E.G.I.O.N. , soon Legion 5YL and in between? He was working on Green Lantern Emerald Dawn (however I believe he was drafted in at the last minute on that book) and Aquaman. I’m not certain but I’m sure there was one month where ALL I got was Giffen writen or plotted books from DC in that early 1990s. So to me he was THE DC ideas man. Sure he didn’t stick around too long on some of the books or they were only short runs – but the output was prolific and I loved ALL of it.

    That he could change his art style almost instantly was another amazing talent he had. I honestly can’t recall a single penciller who you can say has so many different periods of his work and most of them fantastic. However it wasn’t his art it was his stories that I loved and I followed his work almost everywhere he went with DC. From the main DCU to Heckler and Vext back to the DCU and even into the New 52. But despite this I never actually checked out his Marvel work or his Image work or indeed his Valiant Work – It was DC only for me for some reason well that an Boom Studios work. I probably should go back and check those other works out. But there’s still so much of his DC output I’ve to finish off first and that is an amazing legacy alone.

    I’ve listened to his podcast and read some interviews and all I can say is that Keith Giffen was a unique person with a unique talent and I honestly wish I’d met him in real life as I suspect despite our age differences we’d have got on well.

    As the Comic industry starts to grind to a halt in terms of sales of new books and whatnot all I can think of is that in a way Keith Giffen was a driving force like no other to bring great ideas into the books and universes he worked on and probably more than almost everyone brought the greatest years of DC together. If he had only done LSH he would have been a Legend. If he had only done JLI the same but he did both and far far far more than that.

    My final thought is this. After the death of Ted Kord at the hands of Dan Didio I was very very angry with DC and then I read about the new Blue Beetle and I expected to hate him. BUT the name Keith Giffen on the book gave me pause and I tried the book after Infinite Crisis…. and I don’t know any other writer who could have sold me on the new Blue Beetle but he did and he introduced me to John Rogers who I have followed his TV work as well. Keith had a talent for reinventing not just his art, not just his story telling but characters and bringing new and exciting ideas into books and also collaborating with some of my favourite writers and the best part of all of this, I honestly don’t think he did it as an ego trip because he seemed to just want to tell stories and get the ideas out of his head. He’ll be missed because I still believe there was one more great JLI one more great LSH mini series or story in him hell there was probably a hundred great ideas in him. We’ll never know and that’s a damn shame.

  22. Yet another great episode but this time I’m not going to talk about Breakdowns, I’m going to talk about Keith Giffen.

    When I was a guest on the podcast I talked about how I discovered DC Comics with the Millennium crossover. The newsagent where I had discovered Marvel US got in a one-off shipment of DCs all of which were Millennium crossovers. I went home with my first 16 DC Comics including JLI 9 & 10. I adored those two comics. Everything about them felt fresh and different. The characters were completely defined in those issues. I read them again and again. And I became a Keith Giffen fan for life.

    If I’d seen an earlier issue I may have overlooked Giffen’s contribution. It would be easy to focus on JM’s sparkling dialogue and Kevin’s expressive art but these two issues featured back-ups pencilled by Keith Giffen and it was those stories that fascinated me. It’s really difficult to express why an art style appeals. There was something in the abstraction and those huge black splotches that sang to me and I wanted more. Maybe I was lucky that they were the first Giffen pages inked by Al Gordon who (on 5YL) proved to be Keith’s best inker.

    It was a couple of months before my newsagent had anymore DCs and the next JLI I picked up was issue 13, again pencilled by Keith Giffen. This is why I wanted to vote Keith Giffen in the best JLI artist poll on Patreon. He drew my first three issues and he drew the hell out of them.

    Over the succeeding 35(!) years I have continued to love Keith’s work and have continued to pick it up. It’s weird how attached you can feel to a person you never met but also how can you not feel a connection when someone’s creativity brings you joy for decades. I feel a genuine loss.

    Now let’s find some joy. I’m going to recommend some of my favourite Giffen works that are guaranteed to cheer us up.

    First I demand that everyone reread JLI 13 and Suicide Squad 13. Great crossover, great art.

    Legionnaires should reread the entire 5YL. I reread this at least once a year and I swear it’s getting better. My other Legion recommendation is Legion Annual 1 by Levitz and Giffen. Everyone goes on about the Great Darkness Saga and they forget to shout about the introduction of Invisible Kid II. Also dig out the Baxter Legion issue 50 by Levitz, Giffen and Gordon. It’s wonderful.

    If you want to bask in some early Giffen I would recommend reading his Defenders run. Issue 49 where the team battle a Rampaging Hulk and Keith is inked by Mike Royer leaning into the Kirby influence was one of my own Mountain Comics. While I’m buttering up Rob Kelly I should also mention the Defenders Treasury Edition that features a Giffen pin-up and a wonderful map of their HQ also by Giffen.

    Every single page of Ambush Bug is a joy. Read it and weep fanboys and girls.

    The 70s run of All-Star has been collected and is easily found. Keith is just doing layouts for Wally Wood but they are wonderful stories. I agree with Keith, Superman should always be squinting just like when Joe Schuster drew him.

    Go to TwoMorrows and buy the Legion Companion and the best of the Legion Outpost they contain fantastic interviews with Keith from different times in his career.

    There is an odd little 2 page story pencilled by Keith in Weird War Tales 124 (the last issue). It’s worth searching out.

    If you like weird futuristic magical fantasy the 4 issue 1987 Amethyst series by Giffen, Mindy Newell and Esteban Maroto is fantastic providing you can mentally separate it from the original series.

    The Acronym LEGION issue 28 is a fantastically weird and creepy body horror story that could only have come from the brain of Keith Giffen. Probably best not to read it if you are ever considering having a baby.

    Thorion of the New Asgods is one of the best Amalgam books.

    Vext is one of my favourite forgotten series. It’s a domestic comedy about a god living in the city drawn by Mike McKone. Probably the closest thing to JLI that Keith did without JM.

    Keith was a key part of my favourite One Year Later projects. He co-created and co-wrote the fantastic Jamie Reyes Blue Beetle series and he did breakdowns for the entire 52 weeks of 52.

    I also want to shout out his other collaborations with JM DeMatteis. The Defenders series drawn by Kevin Maguire is absolutely delightful as is Hero Squared from Boom Studios. Scooby Apocalypse is much better than it ought to be and Justice League 3001 is so JLI that you should probably cover it on the podcast.

    RIP Keith Giffen and thanks for all the wonderful stories.


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