I was sad to find out that Invaders from Marvel Comics, based on the classic team from World War II, was cancelled with issue #12 in December.
At the same time, DC is reviving Legion of Super Heroes and Justice Society of America.
Each one of these groups have had their time in the spotlight, but can they find an audience in another time?
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Before I talk about how all this affects us, I thought I’d do a quick explanation of just who these people are.
First, Invaders was a team back in the Second World War that featured Captain America (of course!), the Human Torch (who was an android), and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Bucky, Cap’s partner, and Toro, the friend of the Human Torch, also made appearances.
The current team has the original trio with the current version of Bucky, the Winter Soldier.
Invaders has some of the same problems Cap does these days: Who do they fight? They can always bring back the Red Skull and Hydra/the Nazis, but that’s been done to death, seems to me. Our current world has a lot more shades of grey than the 1940’s did, so having the Invaders attack someone who today is a problem may not work because tomorrow that same group may turn into an ally. And with Cap questioning his support of the U.S. government, well, that makes it tougher still.
The Legion of Super-Heroes came about in the 1960s, and they were the product of comics that had a positive view of the future, much like Star Trek. It was also a time when comics relished science fiction, often having Batman and Superman go through weird transformations in order to sell comics.
The Legion has been through several incarnations, with one of the recent ones written by Mark Waid was a personal favorite. Their current revival is just getting started, and we see some changes in the characters like Lightning Lad being a person of color, for instance.
I’ve been a fan since I was a young kid, so I’m anxious for the Legion to succeed, and it has Brian Michael Bendis behind it, so I’m optimistic. We’ll see.
Justice Society of America has many of the same problems that the Invaders do. They have been firmly entrenched in the Second World War, and since a lot of time has passed since then, it’s tough to use the same characters, who would be in retirement homes by now.
One of my favorite reworks happened in a book called Earth 2, in which we saw the team on another Earth, and they had some updating done as well.
From what I’ve read, the JSA is being re-introduced via Justice League, and I haven’t read a lot of information on what they’ll be doing yet, but I have read every try at it, including All-Star Squadron, so I’d love to see them succeed. Hey, I’m loving Freedom Fighters right now!
There are more groups I could name, but let’s stick to this group of three for now.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
The biggest problem is that these groups were intentionally set in a problem that is inherent in a certain time period. During World War II, people wanted to read heroes fighting the bad guys of that era. But now that we’re long past it, how do you keep the team going?
Suppose you take the JSA and move them wholesale into the future, perhaps our time. The trick is that they become competition for the Justice League, among others. They themselves would be disoriented, not to mention the readers.
In Invaders, the group is now significantly different from the 1940’s, so fans have to “buy” them in their latest forms. I mean, Bucky was drastically changed when he became the Winter Soldier. Will fans take to this new incarnation? Tough to say.
Then you have to take into account the shifting audience. As the heroes should be older now, that’s also true of the fans/readers. Can new generations of readers who didn’t live through WWII glom onto these characters? Are there enough of those “experienced” fans to support groups from the past? Probably not.
What intrigues me about the current re-introduction of the Legion is that they are being tied very tightly into what DC already considers future continuity. I’m concerned about doing that too tightly. As time passes, we might go by some of what DC has predicted. If it doesn’t take place, then what? In a way, I’d prefer Legion to be its own separate universe, apart from the DC future history. That way, you can pretty much do anything to tell a good story.
I wish I could figure out how to make them work today. I’d probably make good money if I could.
WHAT DO WE DO?
As a fan of the groups I’ve been talking about, the only thing I can figure to do is buy the books. If the sales aren’t good, the companies will cancel them a la Invaders. The big question is: Will Marvel really make another try at something that didn’t work previously?
I run into this all the time in my Star Trek friends. If they don’t like Captain Picard, for instance, they swear they won’t watch the new show featuring that character. The idea is, if nobody watches it, then they’ll have to focus on the characters I prefer.
Uh, no! They may decide to do NOTHING instead. After all, if a popular character like Picard doesn’t work, how can any other Trek do well?
Instead, I say, support it all! If Picard does well, hey, Paramount just might look around and see what else they could turn into a show! If Legion’s revival is a hit, DC will try to push JSA hard to make them a success as well. If DC’s “experienced” heroes don’t do well, they’ll turn their focus to newer heroes. I fear that’s what’s happening to Invaders now.
I was not a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I watched it faithfully even though I had to hold my nose at times. I was rewarded with Deep Space Nine, my favorite of all the Treks. In other words, success breeds success. Entertainment companies like Paramount, Marvel, and DC all are in show BUSINESS, as I like to say. Like Geoff Johns’ JSA series, which I adored, we can get great versions of these classic characters. We just have to be there and support them even when they aren’t at their best!