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  1. #1
    Mighty Member Timothy Hunter's Avatar
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    Default Why Did JLI Succeed When Justice League Detroit Failed?

    The early 80's weren't a great time for the Justice League of America saleswise, so the decision was made to give a new spin on the Justice League concept. The heavy hitters were sacrificed in favor of preexisting c-listers (Vixen and Steel) and outright original characters (Vibe and Gypsy). There were remnants of the original Justice League still in tact such as Zatanna, Elongated Man, and Martian Manhunter, but they were never the League's most popular members.

    Famously, the new Justice League that had started with JLofA Annual 2 was even more ill received than the Justice League stories that preceded them. Amidst the Legends crossover, the 'Detroit' era of the Justice League ended with issue 261.

    Soon afterwored the Justice League title was relaunched with a new #1 under the helm of Keith Giffen, J.M Dematteis and Kevin Maguire. This more humerous Justice League ended the franchise's streak of misfortune as it became a huge hit, becoming one of DC's top selling titles and for the first time made the Justice League a family of titles, spinning off to Justice League Europe, Justice League Quarterly, Justice League Task Force, and Extreme Justice.

    This has always perplexed me because the JLI had much more in common with Justice League Detroit than you might think: Both Justice Leagues tackled smaller scale threats than the Justice League of the Silver Age and Bronze Age, and both favored lesser known characters in favor of B-listers and C-listers. Sure JLI had Batman, but so did Justice League Detroit in it's latter half.
    Last edited by Timothy Hunter; 10-22-2020 at 06:33 PM.

  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    I think it was a great mix of talent for one.
    I remember it being such a contrast to JLD when it started.

    I also think DeMatteis was a bit more excited for JLI than he was for JLD. He came into JLD after Conway and it was really Conway’s baby with characters that Conway created.

    Then there was Maguire’s art. Those expressions brought the characters to life.
    And Giffen helping DeMatties with plots really improved his writing.

    I think JLD under these creators would’ve been a bit more successful.
    I also remember not really liking McDonnell on JLA as I felt his style was too dark. I really liked Patton on the book.

    It also helped that JLI had a much better start coming out of Legends.

    Something else I recall was that JLD was always treated like replacements that had to prove themselves.
    One cover had Gypsy running from a fight, the team was always shown on the losing end of fights and dialogue on the covers supported this.
    JLI appeared to be treated as being more competent.

    More of the members had their own solo books.
    JLD had no solo books until Batman rejoined.
    JLI has Batman, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold... Minis for Captain Marvel and Doctor Fate...
    Then Captain Atom and Mister Miracle.

    And JLI was prominent in the line-wide events than JLD.
    Granted, there were only two.
    But JLD went to the sidelines for Crisis on Infinite Earths.
    And were disbanded for Legends.
    Not to mention, the one JLA/JSA crossover they had was JLD and Infinity, Inc., not the JSA.

    So basically, I don’t think DC pushed JLD as hard as they did JLI, and also shaped opinions on the team by always showing them having an inferiority complex.
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  3. #3

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    DC had a lull leading up to, during, and after COIE and JL Detroit was caught up in that. The original intent following Crisis was for the JL to be reformed with premiere members like Morrison wound up doing in the 90's but then several of the intended members became unavailable.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Holt's Avatar
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    Despite the mostly B-list (charitably) cast that DeMatteis and Giffen were saddled with, the crucial difference between JLI and JL Detroit is they were able to actually build compelling and entertaining character interactions out of that.

  5. #5
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    Lee Stone covered most of it already but I thought;

    1) JLI had a lot of pre-established characters like Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, Black Canary, etc. while JLDetroit had some newbies, Gypsy, Steel, Vibe, who didn't have much in the way of a pre-built fanbase rooting for them.

    2) The characters were a bit more dynamic, even to the point of caricature (particularly with Guy, but Martian Manhunter and Captain Marvel and Fire & Ice and Booster & Beetle were written a bit over the top at times), which made for more memorable interactions than 'Steel is a dick, Gypsy is unsure of herself and Vibe breakdances and busts out some horrible cliched 'street' dialogue.'

    3) I read both series. I remember mostly jokey interactions that didn't really work for me, from JLI (I am NOT a fan of Keith Giffen's sense of humor, at all). But I also remember Maxwell Lord, and he went on to big things (he's even gonna be the big bad in the new Wonder Woman movie, I hear). As for JLDetroit? I remember nothing, for good or ill. Did they introduce any new villains who have gone on to big things? No idea. I am pleased that Vixen has appeared in Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow and various cartoons, and amused that Vibe and Gypsy have appeared in the Flash (as significantly different characters, but still, cool). But in the comics? That whole run seems to have been forgotten.

    4) One book had Batman. The other did not.

  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Haven't read both but people who talked to me about JLI or keep uploading panels love it because it was funny. No one talked Detroit, so I assume it's not funny. Incidentally, the people I talked who dislike New 52 JLI is because it's angsty instead of funny.

  7. #7
    Extraordinary Member Dr. Poison's Avatar
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    I think it was due to a few things.

    The roster had better known heroes for the most part. The JLDetroit had Aquaman(only for about a year), Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Elongated Man, Vixen, Vibe, Gypsy, Steel, and Batman towards the end. the JL/JLI had Batman, Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel, Martian Manhunter, Mr. Miracle, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Captain Atom, Rocket Red, Fire, Ice, and others.

    The creative team for the JLI was much more desirable and consistent, especially after the final year or two of JLDetroit.
    Currently Reading: Death Metal, Injustice: Year Zero, Justice League, Justice League Dark, The Other History of the DC Universe, Truth & Justice, & Wonder Woman.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    I agree that there were far more memorable moments from JLI than JLD.
    Granted, when combined with JLE and JLQ, JLI had over a hundred issues, while JLD less than a third of that.

    But even those three years of JLD only had a few memorable moments for me-
    The Annual, with it’s great cover, where the JLA members suddenly decide, after 24 years, that they didn’t have the time to devote to the League.
    Which was probably one of the earliest thinly veiled editorial decrees, similar to any other fabricated real-world limitation on who can be members of a team.
    So, after 24 years, the team basically disbands because characters with their own books couldn’t logically be in two places at once. Despite this never being a problem during the peak of the Satellite Era.
    You can also tell that Conway wanted Firestorm to stay, but because he had his own book he was also forbidden to be a member.

    Then there was the four-issue intro story, also with pretty cool covers, where they fought the Cadre, a promising new villain group poised to become their Injustice League. Except that they were forgotten about and really didn’t go anywhere.

    There was the (too long) Amazo story that sported the cover with Gypsy running away from the fight.

    Aquaman leaving the team to be with Mera.

    The too little-too late Despero story, which not only was actually good, but also felt out of place in the book.

    The terrible Elongated Man costume.

    Dale Gunn and Sue Dibny established the League having strong civilian supporting cast. Something the JLA had early on with ‘Snapper’ Carr. This carried over to JLI with Max Lord, Oberon and, later, Catherine Cobert.
    Dale Gunn also gets an award for most promising new character that never saw his potential.
    Sue also became a supporting cast member of JLE.
    And, strangely enough, there was never any mention of her encounter with Dr. Light in neither runs...

    And, of course, the most memorable moment would probably be the deaths of Steel and Vibe that marked the end of the team.

    I thought about highlighting some of the memorable moments for JLI, but that post would be too long, as I was a big JLI fan during the run.
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  9. #9
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    Haven't read both but people who talked to me about JLI or keep uploading panels love it because it was funny. No one talked Detroit, so I assume it's not funny. Incidentally, the people I talked who dislike New 52 JLI is because it's angsty instead of funny.
    Something I wish they did when reprinting comics in trades, is also including the first letter column page.
    Back then it was very common for the first issue or two to have the editor welcome the readers to the book and then explain who the creators are and how the title came to be.

    JLI had a very informative editorial in its intro letter column and it really helped explain the thinking behind the team.
    Basically, the approach to this era of the League was to treat them like real people that work together.
    How you have to sometimes get along with somebody you may not like, or how natural friendships form, because you really have no choice but be there together and do your job.
    That’s what clicked with that team. They just felt like normal people at work, except they wore costumes and ‘work‘ usually meant saving the world from some megalomaniac.
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  10. #10
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    Maybe the terms of comparison are off.

    JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA began in 1960 and ended in 1987. It ran for 261 issues. JUSTICE LEAGUE/JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL/JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA began in 1987 and ended in 1996. It ran for 113 issues.

    Couldn't we ask why JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA failed, too? Dan Jurgens came onto that book, took it in a different direction, but it got cancelled. I think it just ran out of steam. And the publisher wanted to reboot the series, because in the collector market sales go up when a series restarts.

    The Detroit League came at the end of a long running series. Gerry Conway had already been writing the Justice League for a long time (longer than anyone else--even Gardner Fox--I believe) and the Detroit League was his effort to bring new life to a book that was losing steam--that plus the fact that many of the long-standing members of the team were subtracted from the book for editorial reasons and the trend was for younger super-hero teams. Conway took a move out of the Stan Lee playbook (on AVENGERS) and threw a hail-mary pass.
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  11. #11
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    Gerry Conway's writing on Detroit was mediocre to say the least. And the art was pretty uneven as well.

    Giffen proved himself to be a fantastic plotter. DeMatteis was brilliant in his dialogue. And Keven McGuire was the perfect artist for the book.

    I knew from the first issue that JLI was going to be a book I would pick up every month. It always left you wanting more. And the better they fleshed out each character, the more I enjoyed it.

  12. #12
    Judgement Awaits LordAllMIghty's Avatar
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    It probably would have done fine if they kept Superman and Batman...either Green Lantern or Flash to train the new guns
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  13. #13
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    I think people are forgetting that Batman re-joined in issue #250 - right before the Despero arc. I just think it was a matter of 'too little, too late' at that point.

  14. #14
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    Couldn't we ask why JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA failed, too? Dan Jurgens came onto that book, took it in a different direction, but it got cancelled. I think it just ran out of steam. And the publisher wanted to reboot the series, because in the collector market sales go up when a series restarts.
    Sure.
    Jurgens’ run had the makings of a good follow-up to Giffen/DeMatteis.
    The main core of characters that readers cared about -Beetle, Booster, Fire, Ice and Guy, were still there.
    Maxima looked cool and had potential.
    Superman, being one of the Trinity, would be a good pull for new readers.

    Unfortunately, it was very lackluster.
    The art was too stiff, the characterization was off...
    It was like Jurgens had just gone out of his way to not read the Giffen/DeMatteis run because he didn’t like the way Booster was handled and had no idea how the characters related to each other.

    I followed the book from the first issue all the way up to Jurgens taking over and that’s where I started to lose interest.
    From 1988 to 1991, all I bought were the JLI books.

    I remember getting excited about the vote for members for the Spectacular and relaunch.
    The homage covers were cool, too.
    But then... both books just fell flat for me.
    The era was over.

    Then the Zero Hour team and its muddled art and over the top stories (and characterizations) just outright killed any interest I may have still had.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Stone View Post
    Sure.
    Jurgens’ run had the makings of a good follow-up to Giffen/DeMatteis.
    The main core of characters that readers cared about -Beetle, Booster, Fire, Ice and Guy, were still there.
    Maxima looked cool and had potential.
    Superman, being one of the Trinity, would be a good pull for new readers.

    Unfortunately, it was very lackluster.
    The art was too stiff, the characterization was off...
    It was like Jurgens had just gone out of his way to not read the Giffen/DeMatteis run because he didn’t like the way Booster was handled and had no idea how the characters related to each other.

    I followed the book from the first issue all the way up to Jurgens taking over and that’s where I started to lose interest.
    From 1988 to 1991, all I bought were the JLI books.

    I remember getting excited about the vote for members for the Spectacular and relaunch.
    The homage covers were cool, too.
    But then... both books just fell flat for me.
    The era was over.

    Then the Zero Hour team and its muddled art and over the top stories (and characterizations) just outright killed any interest I may have still had.
    Agree with all of this. I knew it was off pretty early in Jurgens' run. I stayed with it until some writer killed off Ice and I was done. I stayed waaayyyy too long.

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