Hello out there!
I’m George Washington III, and I am the host of this new podcast, Justice League Archives.
I have told my children for a very long time that we live in the future. The immediate access to almost anyone you want to be connected to, the ability to find nearly any information you want at any time from virtually anywhere. The ability to squad up with like minded individuals everywhere in the world, if you want. What does living in the future mean to me?
Well, in one instance, it is that everything I wanted to see when I was a child actually exists.
Come on back to 1973 with me. I was 5 years old when “Super Friends” made its debut on ABC (Channel 7 in Kankakee, IL). You guys, it was magic. Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman. Super heroes! And even a couple of guest appearances by the Flash, Plastic Man and Green Arrow. It was the very beginning of my love of the genre and the characters.
Years later, I found out that my father was just as much a fan of comic books and super heroes as I was, and he started our little tradition which generally went like this:
Dad: George? you buy comics this week?
Dad: Let’s go.
And we did. We’d drive over to the little store in Bourbonnais, IL that carried comic books and we’d get comic books; primarily X-Men, but occasionally other things: Marvel Two-in One, Marvel Team Up, What If? And we’d read them and talk about the stories and wait for the next ones. Up until high school, I just enjoyed it. But when I reached high school, I realized that it was something that not many people were as accepting of such a nerdy interest. We continued to buy them until I headed to college in Evanston.
It was there I really got the bug, even though it was also there my X-Men compulsion finally dropped away (The Inferno storyline didn’t do anything for me). There was a comic book store there, really the first dedicated comic book store I had ever seen. I spent hours there, just walking through the place, reading things without buying sometimes, picking up interesting things now and again. One of my best friends got a job there, and I was fully justified in hanging around more, I thought. Comic books and heroes, on the page, almost as much as I would want.
Do you remember, though, what super heroes on the screen, both TV and movies, looked like back then? A few years ago, i showed my daughters an episode of Super Friends on You Tube. In this episode, the Justice League was unable to respond properly to a TroubleAlert because they….were at a golf charity event. Aquaman was hitting a ball out from the bottom of a water hazard on the course. My oldest daughter asked me “Do we have to watch this?”
I told her to get out one of the Justice League DVDs from the Cartoon Network series and watch that. Because that was what they had grown up with. A quality of story, a seriousness of the craft, an assumption that your viewers were smart enough to take in and accept, for instance, an invasion from outer space that previously had wiped out the Martians, leaving J’onn Jonzz as the last living Martian, leading Earth to be defended by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and the Martian Manhunter.
The Justice League. Not “Super Friends.”
The horrendous quality of screen and film superheroics of the age is well documented. Remember CBS TV’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America? Perhaps this little gem, the Legends of the Superheroes show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, Ed McMahon and Brad Sanders as….Ghetto Man? No, I’m not kidding.
This is what we had. The thing we loved was treated like a joke.
Then somewhere along the way, the things nerds liked (besides Star Wars and Star Trek: they were big enough to stand on their own) were taken more seriously. Was it Tim Burton’s Batman that began to the tide? The Matrix? Blade? Seriously, was it Lois and Clark?
I don’t know what it was that said it was OK for the things we love to be mainstreamed and popular and good. But suddenly there were good X-Men movies. Outstanding Batman movies. The completely unexpected success of Iron Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The future I wanted: seeing Nightcrawler of the X-Men in a live action film, fighting like a teleporter SHOULD fight.
This, now, today, is the future that I wanted as a kid. My heroes, looking good onscreen, doing what they do. Marvel has done an outstanding job of this with the MCU, DC has done so in fits and starts, both on theaters and on television. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has the chance to do this with at least The Trinity, and set up the Justice League in a way that will rival the Avengers. As it should.
We will be lucky if we can get to where the Justice League was when I start the bulk of this podcast, during the beginning of the Grant Morrison era. The threats were serious, world spanning, occasionally (if confusingly) universal, with iconic heroes from which almost all others spring from.
Welcome to the future, kids.