Comic Books #52: JLA 1984 - A Godawful Mess

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?


  1. To be fair, I've seen worse art.

  2. Haha...simply classic. Although I am afraid to find out exactly what Enlongated Man was doing with that giraffe neck of his when the alarm sounded...


  3. Elongated Man? You've got to be kidding me, there's a character named Elongated Man? It's a good thing I quit reading comics in the '70s.

    1. I quit reading comics in 1969 or so and I remember Elongated Man. Backup in Detective Comics. He and his wife drove around the country Route 66-style finding mysteries. Stretched more than his neck, too.

    2. To be fair, Vixen eventually developed into a solid character. The others, though, died and stayed dead.

      If it's gay stereotypes you want, keep your squinties peeled for a comic called "The New Guardians".

  4. I'm not sure if I still have this issue floating around my collection, but definitely agree it was the beginning of a lowpoint in JLA history. I've never had a problem with the Elongated Man and Sue, except that artists would occasionally show him using his power in bizarre ways. He'd elongate his elbows, knees, and pretty much anything else to beat up on bad guys. As characters go, though, he was different than pretty much anyone else. Zatanna is also a favourite.

    BTW, in the wake-up panel you showed above, I'd be less worried about what Elongated Man was elongating, and more about Sue's high heel slippers. Besides, the really disturbing pairing were Wasp and Antman in The Avengers. Guess what people who can shrink in size do in bed.

    And then there was that time when Superman and Big Barda were forced to be in a porn movie...

  5. Oh, fans were upset with this era of the JLA before the ink on this issue was even dry!

    At least you only disagree with the contents of this comic! Modern comics have gotten so bad since this issue, some you simply can't read! The art and storytelling are so poor, you won't know which panel is to be read in what order! Nevermind whether or not you like the story or art...

    And that comes from me, a guy who's been reading comics since the early 70s (and boy, are my eyes tired)! :)

    Al Bigley

  6. I thought J'onn J'onnz was afraid of firewater...

  7. Oh that was a strange strange era for the comic...

  8. Elongated Man would be a good porn star name. The adventures of Elongated Man..

  9. It was just announced that VIBE is coming back to JLA and getting his own series. Seriously.

  10. This proves an important point for those who hate today's comics and yearn for "the good ol' days," however they define them--there were plenty of crappy comics back in the old days too; just like there are decent comics made today if you look for them (Supergirl, Batman, Saga).

  11. Had I been a reader of this trash, I would've skipped past every panel where the Puerto Rican guy is talking just like I plug my ears, mute the TV, or go "BLAH BLAH BLAH" whenever that disgusting Puerto Rican guy on Barney Miller spoke a word.

  12. This issue is only so hated because it was so high profile. A lot of people hated Vibe because he was a minstrel, but most weren't that enlightened. At least half of his detractors just hated him because he wasn't white. I still remember complaining about the John Stewart Green Laturn, "Why did they have to make him...black?". And John Stewart actually fulfilled the "politely ethnic" requirement (its OK to not be white as long as you act white).

    There are much worse comics, much worse DC comics, much worse Justice League comics. Sure, its tacky and lame, but the majority of comics this old seem that way. Instead of rebooting the classic cast again like they did in the 60s they decided to make new guys...they sucked, things turned out fine in the end. Its because of this that we got the early 90s JL which I really liked.

  13. I got out of comics for quite a while too. Then I picked up the phillips/brubaker stuff...Fatale and incognito. great stuff. The before watchmen stuff is good too. And the Amanda Connor Power girl books! And Love and Rockets is still going strong. They cost a hell of a lot more now ,though.

  14. All this issue needed was a visit from the future by Matter Eater Lad to complete the 'lame superhero' contingent


  15. What infamous Levis 501 Jeans commercial?