JLI Podcast #59 – BREAKDOWNS: Justice League America #59 & Justice League Europe #35

BREAKDOWNS is nearly over! Mark Baker-Wright joins The Irredeemable Shag to chat about Justice League America #59! The League travels to Kooey-Kooey-Kooey to confront Dreamslayer, but he's got a deadly plan! Then Tim Price stops by to discuss Justice League Europe #35! It's Leaguer vs Leaguer, as Silver Sorceress faces Dreamslayer in final battle! Finally, we wrap up with YOUR listener feedback!

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30 responses to “JLI Podcast #59 – BREAKDOWNS: Justice League America #59 & Justice League Europe #35

  1. Just listening to Shag’s comments on the inking in the JLA issue and I’m surprised a dyed in the wool JLDetroit and Suicide Squad fan didn’t recognise the uncredited inking assist by Luke McDonnell particularly obvious on the splash panel reveal of the new Extremists. There’s something quite satisfying about seeing the artist of JM’s End of an Era run on JLofA turning up on his penultimate issue of JLA.

  2. Shag you’ll happy to know when I was a kid My local comic store in Sf firestorm was always sold out. I had to go to the seven 11 by great grandmother’s house two hours away. After the Firestorm JLI/SUSICIDE SQUad crossover where he becomes an element was super spotty.
    So may I ask the big question? WHY’S a fire creature go into space?

    1. My apologies if I’m misunderstanding your question, but now that I’ve had a chance to listen to the podcast, I’m thinking you’re asking about Shag’s and my discussion about the fact that Firestorm wasn’t really “a thing” anymore at the time this issue came out, having gone into space. So here’s the quick (?) version:

      By the end of Firestorm’s own series (which ended at issue #100 in mid-1990), it was discovered that, due to a careless act by the “blank slate” Firestorm some years earlier, Darkseid’s minion Brimstone was reborn on the surface of the sun. In order to fight Brimstone, and through some chess-movements I won’t detail here, the then-existing Fire Elemental Firestorm is done away with, while Martin Stein (discovered by this point to be the intended Fire Elemental) becomes the new Elemental Firestorm while already in outer space so that he could fight Brimstone and save the solar system. However, in winning this battle, Brimstone’s death threatened to create a small black hole on the surface of the sun. Firestorm is able to close the black hole, but only after passing through it to the other side. At the time, it was thought that Firestorm was lost in another universe entirely, but cameos in later events (such as the blink-and-you-missed-it appearance in War of the Gods that Shag alluded to) suggested that Firestorm was merely in a distant corner of space, unable to return home (except briefly by trading places with Ronnie Raymond on Earth… although the later Extreme Justice easily handwaved even that limitation).

      Anyway, that’s why the fire creature went into space. 😉

  3. Another great show and great guests
    I’m watching wrestlemania 4 right now I wonder who the JLI would be cheering for if they watched it ? I’m guessing guy would be a macho man fan and Ted would maybe Greg the hammer Valentine ,
    Glory I’m thinking he’d be hack saw Jim duggan guy . Sorry I got wrestling on the brain .

  4. I think the Beetle/Metamorpho joke was the better of the two choices, I mean the cover (Here’s another fine thing) is funny but with all due respect, it still is a repurposing of someone else’s work. The paid by the chuckle/ that’s why you’re broke gag feels if not more original,* then at least more organic. It’s the kind of banter my friends and I would actually have “on the spot” rather than talking in famous quotes

    * (It could also have been taken from somewhere and reused but I have no verifiable source at this time)

    1. “The kind of banter my friends and I would have” does describe why JLI worked from the beginning, so that’s a very fair point. But what do I know. I actually picked the same moment in JLE #35 as Shagg, so you know my tastes are suspect!

  5. I was listening and at the same time screaming out loud “THE BWAH HAHA IS THE COVER”. Good thing you heard me.
    As for the final splash, some of us would have loved to have the big, hairy Russian in a loincloth. Just sayin’

    I did have a Silver Age *choke* moment at the announcement that this is the final JLE issue to be covered. Thy end I nigh, fellow travellers…

    1. IMHO, the only thing worth discussing on JLE #36 is the cover, since it is a Maguire one and I like it quite a lot. It’s a great bookend to JL #1’s cover. But you have to hard stop at the cover! No entry! Do not pass go! Nothing to see here!

      And yes, I’m pretty emotional and honored to have helped discuss this show’s final JLE issue. It’s a big deal, as the kids say.

  6. Impressive podcast most impressive. The art on both of these books is top notch. I just saw a Laurel and Hardy comedy on tv the other day. One ware there in the old west bringing some lady a deed to a ranch her family left her. So this cover hits perfectly. Still funny. What? They dismissed the great Beef eater? How rude. This is a true injustice. It is very vexing.

    How can the besmirch his good name. Ah well. It is shocking they just didn’t have the silver Sorcerers loss the bunny hood she looks way cooler without it. Ah the recipe of how Dreamy lord was born is interesting. But geez Max should always ware a suit the pour man has no butt. He must slip out of chairs a lot. The fight is pretty cool. And yep the line of Ted being payed by the jokes is funny. The way power girl is drawn build wise is great. Still not her best costume. Though sadly it will get worse soon.

    – [ ] Katherine’s hair is fine it reminds me of the Elvira action figure I just bought. From her red white and boo look. Even if her outfit looks like weasel Crusher’s acting ensign look. Bats back cool. The evil JLA costumes are fine. At lest it’s not the over used Matrix leather most hero teams get when they’re turned bad. J’ohn’s look is no worse than his normal costume. ( sorry Frank.) though the art in this panel only looks like DC making q Rob Lefiled or Jim Lee joke. Yep It’s a Rob I think none of them have any pupils. Next issue.

    – [ ] The cover is a great homage. Though I am hearing the Jungle Boy from AEW theme when I-see this group. The fight is cool. Yeah it makes sense Guy switched his ring. As for the cast maybe it’s a ring construction. Or an oops. Dreamy Lord breaking his word is just grrr. Anyway Silver taking him down with his own robots is Awsome. As is her beating him on the astral plane. Though since when we see the league again Guy has his sling back on looks like it was a big oops earlier in the battle.
    Though Kathie has never looked better than she does in that panel ware she’s asking if all the hero’s are free of mind control. The last panel of Silver is Awsome with the sir print of her in the background and the JLA jet flying off. Hmm the island is alive? Ah another X men bit like Kakoa . Oh I have a friend from work whom also has a u tube page. If folks like rap music he’s at Yungen LD . He only knows me by my work name.

    I still work under my dead name. Is what it is. Moving on. Sad to see this podcast will be wrapping up soon. Was a lot of fun to hear. Still it’s been a great ride can’ wait to see how Brake downs wraps up. Tootles. I

  7. My one “regret” as a newly minted podcaster was not only being the 99th guest on the show, it was that I forgot to shout out Tim, who’s been following and giving insightful comments on my blog for the longest time. Though obviously, Mark was also a very good guest, really it’s been a run of lovely insightful people, except maybe that 99th one… 😀

    When you think about it the choice to end on the story of Silver Sorceress is a weird one. A good chunk of the other characters are not only sidelined they’re made the bad guys, and the fight is made a sideline to a rather small-scale story to more or less end this epic storyline. Though that’s probably us (me) looking back on this as the end of an epic run, rather than just a mundane changing of the writers. Personally, as a fan of underdog characters, I really enjoy the story, but I wonder if it’s maybe why some might have a problem with Breakdowns as a whole?

    Less seriously I do like how the entire Extremis fight is tough old Guy doing his best to try and avoid fighting Power Girl, and talking of which I don’t think you can criticise bad future costumes when she spends the entire thing in a coconut breatplate! Oh and according to the wisdom of the internet for Silver Sorceress to see her costume as her namesake she’d have to be colourblind enough to see the world more or less in black and white (along with a host of other vision-related problems), though the line itself is pretty kickass in relation to the final fight with Dreamslayer.

    Taling of Dreamslayer’s influence I’m surprised that no one has tried to tie it into the heel turn of Max, if such a thing would ever happen obviously, even if it was from a basic desire to never be placed in a position to never loose control like that as well. With a little bit of Dreamslayer floating around pushing Max to step over than line to become a full villain, actually it wouldn’t be a terrible way to do a redemption arc for the character, if DC is reading I’ll be here waiting for the call!

    1. Aw, I doubt I’ve been commenting on your blog very long, but you’re quite welcome. But hey, you get to be the 99 Red Balloons, and I’m the 101 Dalmatians. Sounds like winning to me. 😀

  8. Excellent job discussing JLA #59, Shagg and Mark! It’s really hard to believe you two haven’t podcasted together before. This must happen again sooner than later!

    And you’re not fooling me, Shagg. Somehow you deliberately paired Mark (new reader of JLI) and me (obsessive re-reader of JLI) together on the same episode. It’s too perfect to have been by chance. Too perfect!

    If I may, following our discussion about Max, I’d like to take a moment to honor the other “normal” person in the cast, Catherine Cobert. Here’s a woman who’s first appearance in JLI #8 was primarily to be a cliche beauty with a thick french accent, and set up big laughs at Booster’s expense. And thanks to regular appearances in JLE, we got to see how smart, brave, witty, and competent she was, quickly becoming the real leader of that team. Catherine was another great character in this series, and I’m glad the creators treated her well here. And her hair can be as big as she wants, because she’s Catherine Freakin’ Cobert! 😀

    Till next time, my friends.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to future opportunities. I’ve enjoyed listening to your contributions to the network, as well.

      Re: Catherine Colbert, I will miss her contributions to the DC universe (and not just for the reasons Shag keeps telling us about!). Does she ever show up post-Bwah-Ha-Ha era?

      1. Catherine does show up post-Bwah-Ha-Ha era, though she (and Max) are nowhere near as prominent as they once were. The writers who took over were seemingly much less interested in these “non-powered” characters being main characters like they were. I have no idea what became of Catherine later, and if she’s even around in the present-day DCU. Though apparently someone on the Young Justice cartoon’s creative team is a JLI fan because both Catherine and Dmitri made appearances on that show.

  9. It’s a testament to the creative team’s artistry that S.S.’s sacrifice still works considering that she’s the poster child for “We hardly knew ye”, but it does!

    And given what comes next, the JLE kinda dies with her.

  10. I think I just proved my nerd cred as I rescued
    Issues 5&6 and of Hardcase and I’m sending it with some other comics I’m sending to a friend I payed $2.00 for watch issue . I’m sending to my friend cause i already have those issues along issue four of dead man. I’m hoping this will get him in to ultraverse . As Hardcase . Was my gate way as well .

  11. Great episode and interesting guests!
    Re-reading these Breakdowns issues has been a rollercoaster, since the story isn’t as bad as I remembered, but the inherent bleakness of the whole narrative feels contrived compared to the early issues of the Giffen/DeMatteis era.
    All in all, there’s a palpable sense of a looser editorial cohesion of the titles which, combined with less than stellar choice of artists, must have caused a sense of tiredness in the Giffen/DeMatteis duo.
    Can’t wait to hear the Bwa-ha-ha Podcast’s take on Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, since they’re wonderful celebrations of the title by the original team of creators.

    Make mine Bwa-ha-ha!

    Nuno Duarte
    Portuguese Embassy

  12. Love the podcast. Anyone else get images of Shag and his guests doing silly gags to the exit music. As Mark said I am of an age that I should have been buying these issue, but didn’t start reading until we found this show. Thank you for introducing me.

  13. Gotta tell ya, I’m not going to miss hearing “Despair-o” every few episodes, or dozens of times in given episodes. It was enough to drive me to… well… you know. That word that has “air” in it, unlike DEHS-pur-oh (Citation: Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe by Robert Greenberger (Editor), Len Wein (Editor), Mark Waid (Editor), Marv Wolfman (Editor), Jeb Woodard (Editor) ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1779505996.)

    Justice League America #59 is bad Bart Sears, right? Like, the editor didn’t just divvy up pages of equal quality between two inkers because he wanted to keep them both working. More likely, Bart was running late and degrading closer to deadline, the rushed pages came in, and Helfer handed them off to whoever in the office could turn them around over the weekend. I’m okay with most John Beatty jobs, especially over Mike Zeck, but he definitely influences the final look on his projects. He’s not a butcher, and if he were, I think the bad pages would have more resembled his style. Instead, they look like Audwynn Jermaine Newman, the third rate Sears clone that finished the run of Eclipso. I wonder Andy Smith* was maybe apprenticing at this point, and hadn’t reached his ultimate second rate Bart Sears clone status yet (see: early Quasar.) Like how Marat Mychaels started out doing uncredited ghost work for Liefeld before he went pro? All this is to say that even bad Sears is at least ten times better than Wozniak*, and I really liked some of the Martian Manhunter close-ups (but none of the figures.)

    I have at times had complete runs of J.L.A. and J.L.E., but I think I managed to partially divest myself of chunks without ever bothering to read them (especially J.L.E.) Silver Sorceress meant N.O.T.H.I.N.G. to me, so her drying from an arrow fired by a random Kooey Kooey Kooey native sounds about right. Hopefully I’m not blinded by my white privilege, but I really feel like there aren’t any actual Pacific Islanders with such thin skin as to get hung up over a broad caricature from a fictional island. That’s more like wypipo getting preemptively offended in their name stuff. Is there a Pacific Island embassy to consult? Despite Kevin Maguire drawing the cover, it’s our heroes in a cannibal pot, the stuff of ’50s comedy teams and the most hoary cartoons. I passed because it was tired, not offensive.

    Romeo Tanghal inking Darick Robertson also had to be a time issue. Tanghal was the Vinnie Colletta of George Pérez inkers, which is why by the late ’80s he was only working over guys like Doc Bright, Chris Marrinan, Ed Barreto, and Paul Ryan. Thankfully he doesn’t muck up the excellent rendering on the facial close-ups, but those action sequences are rough.

    Robertson is really doing the work to put Silver Sorceress over, and I think that’s a failing in the plot. For one, we all love Zatanna, despite her not getting all that many opportunities to show off in the League. Imagine her on the team getting a dramatic moment like this, instead of the Cashew Conjuress. Next, having put in that work, wouldn’t the story have been better if she had lived? This isn’t the finale of Marvels, with Busiek & Ross re-opening the old wounds of boomers and so enlivening the character that Generation X resurrected her to co-star in Spider-Verse. This was a character going in with absolutely no fan following, being hard sold in her final moments before being deposited in the refrigerator. Psylocke had a similar moment in one of her earliest U.S. appearances that proved her mettle to join the X-Men. Silver Sorceress was a stunt in a bid for unearned gravitas at the end of a story, in a book defined by laughs rather than tears, and it seems to anticipate the shock death of another frosted haired League heroine a few years later.

    “Remember that classic Justice League arc? The one that gets really dire and serious at the end, but with Beefeater and Furball and General Glory and Wally West in a speedo? The one where the big villain is Max Lord in a mohair cape on a weaponized Waponi Woo with the League dressed for a luau on Gilligan’s Island? And the tragic death of Ol’ Whatsername, the NPC that hung around in the background of the spare EuroLeague title for 21 issues? The lesser member of a duo made up with Bluejay? So glad she showed the whole team up in the final arc of this run!” Said nobody ever.

    As I’ve mentioned in the past, my two favorite JLI artists are Kevin Maguire and Mike McKone, regardless of whether Shag counts them both. To me, those are the only two that got the balance of humor and heroics right. They are so far out ahead of the rest for me that I hesitate to list anyone else, but my controversial distant third is Chuck Wojtkiewicz. I don’t think he quite had it on JLE, not helped by some truly terrible characters being drawn, but I warned to him over the course of his J.L.A. run. It was a lot like Jon Bogdanove, where his work so defied my expectations that I was initially repulsed, but their virtues were eventually revealed, and my resistance subsided, plus they both draw sexy ladies. Wojtkiewicz wasn’t funny, but he was fun and sparkly in a JLI way.

    Adam Hughes is a very good artist that I’ve never been as enamored with as everyone else, and I felt like his work was too moody and noir for JLI. Ty Templeton was stuck with what I felt was a bad run of issues, and fared poorly in direct comparison with Maguire. I liked Giffen pretty well when he dipped in, but again, weirdly too dark and moody for the material. I liked Kevin West. Dan Jurgens was completely wrong for the book. Marc Campos was one of those guys who never should have transitioned out of inking, and exemplifies some of the worst ninetiesisms of any artist working. Bill Willingham should have done more work on JLI. I was a big Bart Sears fan, but he never worked in the JLI spirit. I like Robertson, but he was even darker and more serious is approach.

    * I might otherwise temper my harsh critiques of their work, but they’re ComicsGater scum, so @#$% ’em.

  14. Excellent guests as ever,thanks Mark and Tim

    I’m very sorry to hear you’ve been poorly, Shag, I hope you’re fully recovered now.

    Gosh, we’re nearly at the end of the JLI runs, it’s beginning to feel very real. Happily, we know a whole world of JSA shows will follow, yay!

    Justice League America #59 gave us the best Silver Sorceress and Bluejay scene ever, I remember thinking this was the beginning of a bold new era for them, a chance for two heroes with massive potential to shine in the spotlight, the beginning of their fanbase exploding…

    I get Mark’s bit about Max’s powers expanding under Dreamslayer’s influence and staying stronger, but what if residual Dreamslayer was then responsible for getting Max to the point of murdering Ted Kord? Maybe a little bit of Dreamslayer was left behind, think Doc Ock, the Superior Spider-Man.

    Every time it’s mentioned that the Extremists are versions of Marvel characters I’m surprised, I always forget because they just don’t seem enough like their supposed models. I wonder if Dreamslayer isn’t just Dormammu, but Dormammu plus Nightmare?

    As regards JLE#35, Tim worked blooming hard to bring forth Nineties X-Men from a bunch of coconuts and some string. Then again, Kooey Kooey Kooey is a living island like Krakoa!

    Poor, wonderful Silver Sorceress. Thank goodness Bluejay survived.

    A million points to Tim for pointing out the similarities between Silver Sorceress and Clea, that works!

    Shiloh Norman vanishing from the pages of the Justice League is no great loss, he’s the very definition of good looking, but pointless. He pops up every few years, makes no impression and everyone forgets he exists for a decade.

    1. Oopsie, Symbol Pending got there first with the ‘Dreamslayer still influencing Max’ bit. I really should read the comments before commenting; usually I do, but I, already late with this. Nice one SP!

    2. I’m a Shiloh fan, I met him in the last several issues of the 1990s Mister Miracle comic and thought he as a fun character. I liked his offbeat personality and his innovations with the Mister Miracle tech that made him more useful in a fight. And DC is the place where multiples of the same superhero ID abound (your Green Arrows, your Hourmen, your Flashes, your GLs, etc) so no reason Shiloh and Scott can’t both be Misters Miracle. But there are only so many comics in which to feature characters so yeah he gets forgotten about a lot.

  15. Seeing a Maguire JLI cover just makes my heart smile.

    This was a great episode, Mark and Tim were wonderful guests. I loved hearing from someone reading JLI for the first time. Tim seems to have upgraded equiptment from the last time I heard him on this pod. All gravitas and perfect elocution.

    I also loved the “The Todd” reference. Scrubs was one of my favorite shows. The Wally West disrespect was real and for Silver Sorceress’s sacrifice, that headstone was pretty lacking.

    I enjoyed getting to see Batman, because the JLI Giffen-DeMatteis Batman is one of my favorite version of the character. Balanced perfectly between jerk and justice.

    Mind battles in comics follow the logic laid out by Dreamscape and Nightmare on Elm Street. I’m shocked you guys are questioning it.

    Im also glad you pointed out the Giffen-DeMatteis affinity for “normal” people in their books to lend to the humanity of the book. It was a powerful tool to use and they used it well.

    Now that we’re at the end, I thought I’d share my own JLI origin story:

    I was a Marvel kid growing up, and most of that grew out of Spider-Man and The Electric Company. I bought comics from the spinner rack in my local 7-11, and one day my father took me to a collectibles store, and my mind was blown. So. Many. Comics!

    About a year later, I was 10, and my father arranged for me to work Saturdays at the comic shop. They paid me in breakfast sandwiches, deli lunches and comic books. Which, I think is technically a federal crime.

    One day, the owner’s brother shoved The Dark Knight Returns into my hands and told me to take it home. When I said I didn’t read DC, he said he didn’t care. It was going to be very important.

    Soon after I started collecting Batman, but it was kind of weird and like a soap opera. Robin was jealous of Catwoman, who I think The Joker gave amnesia to? Batman was dating a woman who was maybe a vampire or a mob boss? I think Harlan Ellison wrote an issue where Batman just wanted to take a nap. I don’t know. It was the 80s.

    Anyway, I was about to drop DC and go back to just reading Marvel, but then I saw a John Byrne cover with DC characters on it. And that was weird. What was my Marvel guy doing over at DC?

    So, I picked up issue #1 of Legends. And then everything in DC was starting over. And I was the kid that worked on. Flash #1? Sure. Blue Beetle? The Question? Man of Steel? Fine. It’s a number 1! I’ll get it!

    Legends led to The Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League, and man, that first issue was everything I didn’t know I wanted from a comic book. It was funny. A little somber. It had action. It had someone who was a real jerk in it. I mean, think about that, a main character was a complete jerk, and we kind of loved him for it. That isn’t supposed to work.

    They were already world building and dropping some little hints of mystery with Max. The art was like nothing I’d ever seen before. And everyone had their own personality. Which is really hard to pull off. Not many team books could do that.

    For example, I loved Claremont’s X-Men, but a lot of his characters talked the same. The dialogue could have been interchangeable. Swap out some German for Russian and there isn’t much else there.

    But with the JLI, everyone was a unique, sometimes relatable, individual. Maybe it was the humor, or perhaps the idea of setting most of the comic in-between action, where they could really explore characters and not have everyone become an exposition machine.

    You could never confuse Beetle for Rocket Red. Or Oberon for J’onn. Or Guy for Scott. I don’t know if I ever read a comic where the characters came to life like that. And it’s the main reason why this run is probably my favorite in all of comics.

    Thanks for doing this podcast and bringing this joy back. It’s something I really treasured. Re-reading this run and being able to hear and share the love of the Giffen-DeMatteis JLI with so many people is something that’ll stay with me for a long time.

  16. Wow, this is the end of the road for the podcast covering JLE! I had no idea Giffen wasn’t involved in JLE #36 and I had to go look and yep, sure enough, he wasn’t. It’s just as well, despite a great (of course) Maguire cover, the story inside is not great. Just about every JL member has walked out and IIRC, Beetle, Fire, Ice, and maybe Guy get their butts handed to them by Despero’s mind inside L-Ron’s body (yes, that’s right, it’s as dumb as it sounds) and then they all quit. Only to all decide to return to the League almost right away in the JL Spectacular #1 that set up the new JLA and JLE status quos. It’s all underwhelming after the triumphant splash page of Max back in the saddle at the end of JLA #

    I liked JLE a lot and I still think that initial lineup of Captain Atom, Flash, Rocket Red, Power Girl, Animal Man, Metamorpho, and Elongated Man, is one of the best superhero team lineups ever. Their hijinks as Americans trying to fit in living in Europe really resonated with me as an Army Brat who lived in Germany. The Bart Sears art was great, though I liked the inking on the early issues better. I kept collecting both JLA and JLE. JLE ends up with some weird storylines and some unfortunate characterization choices for Dr. Light and Power Girl, but I liked that someone finally decided to do something with Dr. Light (and later, Tasmanian Devil). The Sonar story leading up to issue 50 is pretty good. But for the most part, it’s never the same after this.

    I didn’t like the mass killing of the KooeyKooeyKooey natives. The whole concept of the island and its people was always played for light-hearted laughs (who can forget the Chief being a big Love Boat fan and the prospect of meeting Gavin MacLeod gets him on board with the JLI Casino?) so it’s jarring to see it run up against grim storytelling like this, also with this being the place Silver Sorceress meets her end. And speaking of which, her sacrifice and taking down Dreamslayer is one of the most memorable parts of Breakdowns. She has a lot in common with the Legion’s Ferro Lad, more famous for how she died than anything she did before that. In the past I’ve said a lot about how odd is was to bring her and Jay onto the team and do absolutely nothing with them (we never find out their real names on panel, or how they got their powers…their sole characteristics were 1) They were from another dimension and 2) they were sad). Potential was there but never realized.

    1. Oops, I left off that JLA issue number…issue number 60 had the triumphant final splash page of Max ready to rebuild the JL.

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