Books Of Justice: Justice League International Volume One

justice league international vol 1 Justice League International Volume One (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Kevin Maguire
Collects Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7

I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty on the blog here before, but I have an extensive collection of post-Crisis, pre-JLA Justice League comics. I still don’t quite remember why I started digging through longboxes for back issues of everything from Justice League International to Quarterly and even Task Force, but I’m pretty close to a full set. For the most part, I would grab whatever books I could find, read them and then put them in a box. I was planning on going back and re-reading everything from the beginning once I completed my obsession, but that plan fell away a few years back when my collecting side waned to almost nothing. And yet, I still wanted to get back into those books, so I was happy when I saw DC start collecting the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire era of the League in the Justice League International collections. I’ve got five or six of these books sitting in my to-read box and recently found myself in a place where I wanted to pay them a visit.

I realized not long after cracking this book open that, even though I consider myself a big fan of this era of Justice League comics, I’d never actually read these first seven issues in order. It was fun going back and reading them in their proper order with a much deeper understanding of the DCU of the day.

This particular League consists of Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Batman, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. The book starts off with this group trying to stop a terrorist group from blowing up the United Nations. They also face off against a trio of Avengers analogs known as Bluejay (Ant-Man), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch) and Wandjina (Thor) who want to rid our world of nukes as well as a mystical threat known as The Gray Man.

From there, a mysterious businessman named Maxwell Lord steps in and tells the League he’s proposing to the United Nations that the team become a sanctioned peacekeeping organization with embassies all over the globe. The group’s like, “Who is this guy?” but thanks to some recent international incidents, they go along with it. The team gets Captain Atom and a member of Russia’s armored Rocket Red squad foisted upon them and look forward to new adventures on a global scale. Dr. Light was in there too for a few issues too, but didn’t stick around. Dr. Fate took off as well.

What blew me away the most about this first book of Justice League comics is that it really jumps right in and spends zero time telling you how the group came together. In fact, there’s so little mentioned that I wound up getting the Legends event miniseries that spawned this team off of ebay because I was curious. I’ll talk more about that in a separate post because it’s pretty bonkers. There is a page devoted to Martian Manhunter mourning his fallen teammates who were part of the Detroit-based League that preceded this one. This style of having a team set before the book launched and dealing with personnel changes as they came is basically the antithesis of the Brad Meltzer League that launched several years back and even the New 52 version more recently. Those eras spent SO much time bringing everyone together and explaining how this character met that one or what he thinks of her that they failed to launch with much gusto. I’m a firm believer that team politics and dynamics should flow organically from the events of the book and not be frontloaded in the early issues. It was refreshing seeing such a different take on what seems like a standard kind of superhero story these days.

The other major departure for this era of the League, the one that it’s most known for, is the humor. Between Giffen’s plots, DeMatteis’ dialogue and Maguire’s art (specifically those wonderful facial expressions) the laughs come from all over the place. What surprised me about these early issues, though, is that they’re not as yuck-filled as the later ones. Sure, they’re in there, but they’re peppered throughout the action which is still taken seriously. That balance of levity and drama is what really makes this run so well-remembered, not just the fact that it’s a funny funny book with superheroes.

Finally, I love that they didn’t immediately throw this new League up against a well known foe. It would have been easy to bring in Kanjar Ro or Starro again, but instead the creative team created new threats, made the book more political and presented complex characters like Max Lord and Bluejay, Silver Sorceress and Wandjina who are actually trying to save this world from the weapons that destroyed their home world. These aren’t simple bad guys to just beat up, they’re more complicated and therefore more interesting to my mind. Instead of making their comic grim and gritty like a lot of the other books of the time, which in and of itself is a way of making comics more realistic, this one brings in larger questions and villains that can’t simply be knocked out, which infuses a book filled with Lords of Chaos and Order, aliens and New Gods, with a different angle of reality. I’m psyched to keep reading and see how International plays out and the eventual inclusion of Justice League Europe in the trades. Plus, here’s something to look forward to when/if the books ever get to the Breakdowns crossover. I did an interview with Keith Giffen about that run that I’ll dig up and post for some fun content.

Binding My Justice League Comics

Ever since I got the first 20 issues of Peter David’s Aquaman and the non-collected issues of HERO bound, I’ve been hooked on the idea. As I said in a previous post, I am far more likely to go back and read my comics if they’re in a handy book instead of in single issues. Even if you get past keeping all your issues in bags and boards, it’s just more of a hassle and they’re harder to store as floppies. The two things keeping me from getting everything bound sooner are cost and not actually having full access to my collection (most of my boxes are back home in Toledo). But, I do have my entire post-Crisis Justice League collection in one box and decided to bind some of them. Since DC is already collecting the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League International stuff, I figured I’d be safe if I went for the first two post- “Breakdowns” waves. So, I read through them again to make sure I still wanted them and got ready for binding.

The first step was figuring out exactly what to collect in my custom hardcovers. It worked out well that Dan Jurgens’ run on Justice League America ran a fairly concise 17 issues (#61-77), so that just made sense. Meanwhile, Justice League Europe only went up to issue #50 after “Breakdowns” before turning into Justice League International, so that also made sense. So, I put together Justice League Europe #37-50 and Annual #3 to make a nice book. I also happened to have two copies of the Justice League Spectacular one-shot that lead into both runs, so one of each went into the beginning of each volume. With the issues decided, I then figured out I’d go through the Houchen Bindery. The place I used previously actually shut down and Houchen gives you the opportunity to create your own cover, so I was sold. Plus, their pricing is pretty good at $17.50 per book when you do 2-4 volumes plus shipping. I then got to work making the covers based on a template and some notes I downloaded from Houchen’s site. This actually took quite a while because I’m not very well-versed in Photoshop, but I think they turned out great. I tried to get good team shots from actual issues and scanned those covers. I then used some cloning tools to get rid of things like the company logo and creative team lists. After that, I got an interesting image for the back, did some silhouetting, created the spine text, chose the colors and was good to go. The part I had the most difficulty with was the spines because I originally wanted to use the actual logo, but I couldn’t find one online that was big enough and I couldn’t get one clean enough with Photoshop. I discovered that Impact Bold font is actually pretty close to the Justice League logo of the day, so that worked out quite well. That last element is what I was most worried about in the finished version, but wound up looking pretty good. I packed up the issues and put a PDF of each cover on a cheap memory stick (which they returned) and sent them off. The whole thing took about a full month, maybe five weeks, but I think that’s because I sent the books out around Christmas and things got backed up. I got the invoice and paid and all that was fine, but waiting for them to actually get here was the hardest part. Every day last week, I hoped they might come, but didn’t. I was bummed. And then, last night, after dark, the doorbell rang and the UPS man was there with a box from Houchen. I was giddy. The books turned out great, if I do say so myself. I was worried the typed stuff would look really crummy or my cloning would look glaringly obvious, but both turned out well. I was also a little worried about gutter loss, but the only thing I noticed was that you can’t read some of the issue numbers on the covers. But that’s it and you can see them in the indicia if you need to figure out which issue is which.  What I like most about getting comics bound is how customizable the process is. If you wanted to include the four issue Elongated Man miniseries that lead into Justice League Spectacular, you could. If you want to do one huge book with all of the DC One Million issues in there, go for it. That’s one of the reasons I want access to all of my collection before really getting into binding some books because I organized my collection alphabetically, so if there’s a Green Lantern crossover with someone and the other book is in another box, I can’t put things together just yet. Like I’ve said before, I don’t feel the need to get everything bound. There’s a fuzzy line in my head between comics I have an emotional attachment to that I want to keep even if in a slightly altered form. Newer books, I’m cool with just getting trades.

My only complaint about the whole process is how much they charge for shipping which was $17.85 for the two books combined. I appreciate that they want to ship via UPS, but when I did my books from the other place, we did media mail and it was much cheaper. I gotta say, being charged essentially what it would cost to get a-whole-nother stack of comics bound is a deterrent. As much as I liked Houchen’s work, I am still always looking for a local bindery that might be interested in doing the same kind of work but closer so I can save on shipping back and forth. Anyone know of one in the Orange County New York area?