April 19, 2024

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #179: Justice League Antarctica

The team had only one mission, but it sure was a memorable one.

What does it mean when you are the comedy superteam inside a book about a comedy version of a prominent superteam?

The answer to that comes when you take a look at Justice League Antarctica.

These guys.

OK, so what was the deal with a superhero team stationed in Antarctica?  Simple.  The basic concept post-Crisis was to treat the Justice League as an international organization under the auspices of the United Nations.  As such, the Justice League International or JLI didn’t have a headquarters so much as a series of embassies around the world.  The original team was in New York, and that was the Justice League America or JLA.  Then there was a European branch, the Justice League Europe/JLE stationed in Paris originally and then London.  There was a single hero, the Tasmanian Devil, stationed in his home country of Australia, but the concept was that the other continents would get their own Justice League team eventually.

Additionally, the Justice League was treated more as a comedy book than a serious superhero book.  And it was legitimately funny, but the League, especially the JLE, could and did have serious adventures as needed.  Mostly the book treated the various members as squabbling adults in the same work place that occasionally were threatened by supervillains.  And some of those villains were less threatening than annoying.

Enter the Injustice League.

Presented as a pathetic bunch of losers, most of whom didn’t even have superpowers, the Injustice League on their first appearance were trying to rebuild an alien attack craft, failing miserably and easily being captured, plus being threatened with a lawsuit since “Justice League” was a copyrighted name.  Who were these guys?

  • Major Disaster, an old Green Lantern foe who could create spontaneous natural disasters the likes of which he had no control over.  Bad things just happened.
  • Big Sir, a Flash foe known for being big, strong, and not very bright.  The comic version of Big Sir actually was made smart and became a friend to Barry Allen, but never mind that for this one.
  • Cluemaster, a Batman foe who was basically a Riddler knock-off.
  • Clock King, a Green Arrow foe who always knew precisely what time it was.
  • Multi-Man, a Challengers of the Unknown foe who here just had weird mood swings.
  • The Mighty Bruce, a scruffy technician the others hired to help them fix stuff and called himself that when he once leapt into a brawl the others had with the JLE.

It’s probably worth noting that Major Disaster could fill a whole regular column here as he went good and bad back and forth before joining the Justice League in a more serious era.  Cluemaster later became a more legitimate Batman foe with his daughter becoming an ally to the Bat named Spoiler.  Clock King was featured in some Batman the Animated Series episodes that Jimmy Impossible hated.  But then there’s Multi-Man…

See, Multi-Man originally had legitimate superpowers.  He came back from the dead every time he was killed with a new set of powers, much like DC hero Resurrection Man.  That never really came up here for some reason, probably because it was funnier to watch a guy go from depressed to stupidly smiling all the time at the drop of a hat.

That may not be funny at all when described that way.

Basically, the Injustice League were a joke group of villains that never stood a chance even against the JLI group that often looked pretty hapless themselves.  They may have hit their lowest point when they went to commit a robbery in a high class penthouse during a gala only to find the place already being robbed by other, regular criminals.  As such, they decided to beat up the other crooks and were suddenly being celebrated as superheroes.  That led Major Disaster, team leader, to ask the JLI if he and his guys could join their team.

And then team financier and behind-the-scenes guy Max Lord said yes.

And he gave them another member in the form of annoying and incompetent Green Lantern G’nort.

Why would he do that?

Simple:  to put all the JLI’s petty annoyances somewhere where they wouldn’t bother anybody.  He gave them the continent of Antarctica to protect.  Heck, G’nort even invited his own archenemy, reformed herald to Mr. Nebula the Scarlet Skier, to join the team.

I could go more into the Scarlet Skier and Mr. Nebula, but I may need to go somewhere with this.

The entire tenure of the JLAnt as they were called was basically a single issue, Justice League America Annual #4.  The team forms, goes to Antarctica, annoys each other, and then a real threat surfaces that attacks their embassy.  What was that threat?  Penguins crossed with piranhas.

This was my single favorite single issue ever.

That threat got the regular League called in, and the heavy hitters went out to take care of the mindless eating machines with the intended plan not to tell the JLAnt because those guys weren’t down there to be superheroes so much as stay out of everyone’s way.

In the end, Major Disaster’s powers caused a massive earthquake that took out many of the penguins and destroyed their headquarters, leading the JLAnt to break up just as soon as they had formed.  G’nort and the Skier wouldn’t rejoin, but the Injustice League members (minus the Mighty Bruce) would return to the final arc of that great run as side characters who didn’t help out much so much as bicker, and then when the plotter for that run, Keith Giffen, did a Suicide Squad run, his first issue featured the Injustice Gang going off on a mission that got all of them killed except for Major Disaster (well, Cluemaster turned up alive somewhere else later, but you get the idea).  I suppose if you really want to show how different the tone of your new book is, killing off characters from a beloved run on another one is one way to go.

The tradition in those days was for the new team to do a group shot facing the reader on the cover, but these guys couldn’t even get that right…

The humor era of the Justice League is probably only rivaled by Grant Morrison’s own JLA runs for seminal League eras, and the two couldn’t be more different.  Maybe Justice League Antarctica never showed up again, but the good news there is they didn’t need to.  Their one appearance was perfect as it was.