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Thursday, 8 November 2012

I read comic books all through the seventies and eighties, but if it was released in the past twenty plus years, I haven't even opened one up. I am hopelessly out of the loop and cannot claim any sort of "comic book cred".  I jumped ship about the same time as Rob Liefeld made that infamous Levis 501 Jeans commercial, and I haven't been back since.

This is not to say comics have gotten worse; indeed, you might argue they've gotten better (I wouldn't know).  However, I can say there were some godawful messes back in the eighties that make me cringe looking at them today.  Let's take a look at the 1984 Justice League of America Annual.  It's literally so crappy, it deserves a post unto itself.

So, our story begins with Aquaman putting the kibosh on the Justice League.  As you can see, Firestorm is freaking out whilst Elongated Man cries like a little bitch.

And did I miss something, or did Elongated Man always have this ridiculous looking neck?  I mean, he's got the giraffe thing going in every panel - WTF?

Okay, so basically the Justice League isn't DOA, just changing their lineup.  Now it's Aquaman, Zatanna, Elongated Man and Martian Manhunter.  I've got no beef with that.  It's when the JLA starts adding some of the lamest superheroes ever created that things get bad..... and I mean real bad.

So, instead of a space station or cave on the outskirts of town, the new JLA sets up camp in the NY Hilton. Hey, it's the eighties - what'd you expect?

Did I mention Elongated Man has invited his normal human wife to live with the JLA in their new digs? As they say in Game of Thrones: Seven Hells! Just when you think things can't get lamer, it surpasses your expectations with each panel.

Immediately, the JLA gets two new members - Vixen and Steel.  Apparently the selection process isn't too rigorous.  Vixen gets in because Aquaman thinks she's got style, and Steel can offer them a sweet deal on some real estate.

The JLA once counted Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman and Flash as members.  Now they've got Vixen and Steel? How low you've sunk, Aquaman. How low indeed.

So, Steel takes the JLA to his secret hideaway under Lake Michigan (?) where he gets into fisticuffs with yet another superhero we've never heard of - Gunn (aka Dale).  It seems superheros are just popping up all over the place.  Who needs Batman or Green Lantern when you can have bald black guy in a metal suit, right?  Zatanna and Vixen would agree.

At last, we come to possibly the worst superhero of all time... and don't say this lightly.  I mean the worst..... ever. I present to you the Latino breakdancer known as Vibe.

"Wha'chu think" Fresh, huh? 'Vibe.' That's chill."..... Batman would not approve.

We're treated to more memorable lines from Vibe:
"Knives are whack."
"Jus' maxin' and relaxin', amigo. Hey, wha' chu waitin' aroun' here for? -- I tol' you, fade."

 So, Vibe meets up with Steel and Vixen and things get a little...... racist.

I'm Italian, and if they had a superhero join the JLA that walked around like Jersey Shore exhibiting every ignorant stereotype, I'd be a little miffed.  In the name of diversity DC comics would seem to be undermining their good intentions.

And just when you think you've seen it all and are ready to put the comic book down, here comes Zatanna tryin' to get her a little chocolate... (insert Barry White background music)

This is just a big f***ing mess.  I have no problem with Zatanna getting busy with the first black guy she sees.  It's just that things seem to have just spiralled out of control.  What's next - a gay relationship develops between Aquaman and Martian Manhunter? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) 

And just as they were about to start knockin' boots, an alarm is sounds.  Like Dale said - "Damn!" He was just about to enjoy himself a fine piece of ass.  At least Elongated Man was gettin' some. (Can you say "disturbing"?)

Turns out the alarm was sounded by yet another brand spanking new JLA member - Gypsy.  What in God's name is going on here?

At least I'm not the only one who had problems with all this nonsense. Noted comics artist George Pérez took exception to the Vibe character as well.

"I sincerely say he’s the one character who turned me off the JLA. If nothing else, every character that was introduced was an ethnic stereotype. I couldn't believe it. I said, “Come on now!” These characters required no thinking at all to write. And being Puerto Rican myself, I found the fact that they could use a Puerto Rican character quite obviously favorable since the one Puerto Rican characters in comic that existed, the White Tiger, is no longer a viable character. But having him be a break dancer! I mean, come on now. It’s like if there were only one black character in all of comics, are you going to make him a tap dancer, a shoeshine boy? Particularly when you’re picking a stereotype that’s also a fad. You’re taking a chance that this guy is going to become very passe, his costume becomes passe because it’s a breakdance costume, the minute the fad fades."

Focus On George Pérez
Published in 1985 by Fantapraphics

And so the comic ends - with Vibe breakdancing, Martian Manhunter swilling a bottle of beer and Zatanna cheerfully pronouncing the old JLA dead. A fitting close, wouldn't you say?


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