Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are best known as collaborators for their work on the post-Crisis Justice League, a period where the premier DC Comics superhero team was best known for being funny. Using a team that today is mostly known for being the silly members of the Justice League, the book was not only popular, but may be one of the best remembered Justice League eras in the history of the team.
But Giffen and DeMatteis worked on another Justice League as well, one that wasn’t intended to be quite so funny, and that would be the Justice League 3000.
For starters, it would be a mistake to assume Giffen and DeMatteis couldn’t tell serious superhero stories together. Some of their old Justice League books were fully capable of being both serious and well-done tales, most notably the time Despero returned to Earth. And Justice League 3000 wasn’t without a sense of humor, but the humor wasn’t the main focus of the book.
Instead, this book came out in a weird time for DC, one that is still true as I type this: DC is not currently publishing an ongoing series about the Legion of Superheroes, the team from the future where, for some reason, there are no adult superheroes so all the protection of the universe goes to a group of teenagers. However, if there is no Legion book, where is the Legion? Justice League 3000 from Giffen, DeMatteis, and artist Howard Porter posited a future where there was no Legion, and when a group of incredibly powerful villains called the Five appeared (one of whom was simply a young woman who altered reality on a routine whim), some scientists at Planet Cadmus had their own solution: clone the old Justice League and let them handle the Five.
Not a bad idea. It…didn’t work out quite right.
The scientists were able to clone, with some memories of their old lives, five Leaguers initially, but they didn’t come out quite right. Who did they have?
- A Superman who lacked flight and vision powers and only a portion of his standard strength. He also was a callous asshole due to a lack of an upbringing from a kindly, humble farm couple.
- A Batman who was mostly about right, but lacked a tragic childhood of his own and the motivation to do right that came with it.
- A Wonder Woman who initially lacked the compassion that makes that character.
- A Flash (Barry Allen) who didn’t have the right protective aura and needed a special forcefield to hit his top speeds.
- A Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) who didn’t have a ring but instead basically was the green energy and had to wear a special cloak to keep himself from burning out and dying.
Later, the scientists made a Firestorm despite the fact that was apparently a really bad idea since Firestorm was two people in one and that meant he stood a good chance of being cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs due to the merged personality. Fortunately, he just didn’t really care to help and that was that.
As you can imagine, the group didn’t quite work out right. They didn’t get along, most of them had powers that didn’t work, and the more the readers saw of the Five, the less they looked like a group even a fully OK Justice League could handle.
Oh, and then it turned out they weren’t really clones so much as the old psyches of the originals somehow overlaid over someone else’s mind, meaning the cloning process killed someone every time the scientists did it. That didn’t sit well with most of the League.
As it is, the characters were somewhat expendable as a result of all that. Heck, the Flash died at least once only to be brought back in a new body. The series ran over two titles, Justice League 3000 and Justice League 3001, eventually leading to a different line-up that included a time lost Supergirl, as well as characters that Giffen and DeMatteis used in their previous, celebrated Justice League tenure.
I’ve only ever read the first trade of this series, and it was an interesting experiment that I would like to finish at some point. In the meantime, well, where the hell is the Legion these days?