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by Bruce Bachand
Illustration by Kurt Belcher

To Live And Die In JLA

It is that one word that can strike fear in all of us from time to time. Some call it the card that is inevitably dealt to us all. Others describe it as the only thing that equalizes us all in the end. It sure isn’t a peasant topic. Of course, I am talking about…death.

Whereas birth signifies new life, innocence, and a beginning, death brings the connotation (for humans) of loss of life, uncertainty, and an end that is ushered in with finality. Death brings to an abrupt end our delusions of grandeur and longevity. My personal take on it is that humans are human because of the unique combination of body and spirit. An animal seems to be a strict physical beast with no spirit, and an angel is a non-corporeal being that is simply spirit. Humans are unique in that they are spirit and body. When the body dies they still live; they are just not fully “human” because of a lack of a body. Mind you, don’t ask me how I can prove this! At least it is a work in progress.

Death in the worlds of comic books has always been a mixed affair. On the one hand we have characters who almost seem to never age (e.g. Robin) or else age in a manner that is not in “real time”, that is, the time that you and I age at yearly. Eternal youthfulness is rampant in the DC universe! This does have a context though. Most comics come out once a month. Heroes would simply age too fast in between issues if they were held to a strict time frame. That is one of the reasons that they seems to stay the same so long. Look at how many years Clark Kent was engaged to Lois Lane before actually marrying! The whole Crisis On Infinite Earths story apparently only took place 5-6 years ago DC-time, whereas the stories were published over 12 years ago!

The issue of death has faired little better. We will confine our look to deaths in the Justice League membership since 1990. Straight to the point, who has died and how?

As one would expect death in the Justice League has been anything but straightforward. Of the seven JL’ers who have “died” over the past 8 years, four of them have returned to the land of the living! All is not what it has seemed to be. In a sense, they have risen from the dead. The Justice League sounds like a good place to “die”, eh?

Those heroes who have died while being active Justice League members have been:

Mister Miracle (‘90)
Superman (‘93)
Booster Gold (‘94)
Ice (‘94)
Metamorpho (‘97)
Tommorrow Woman (‘97)
Wonder Woman (‘97)
Let’s take a look at each death.

1. Mister Miracle: the famous Scott Free died in Justice League America issue #39. He had been piloting the JLA’s flightcraft over the battle site as the other League members battled Despero on the ground below. Issues #38-#40 told the tale of the Despero incident. The lethal foe was attempting to enact revenge on the team that had humiliated him previously. With a single blast , Despero obliterated the craft that Miracle was in. The body had been completely vaporized by the devastation. Though they eventually defeated Despero, the loss of Mister Miracle was remembered in a memorial service in issue #40.

da scoop: Well, readers found out later that same year that the Scott Free who died in the ship had been an artificial replicant. The “real” Mister Miracle was on a covert mission that had demanded the utmost secrecy. The real kicker was that his wife, Barba, did not know this important fact and had mourned and grieved the “death” of her husband the whole time until he came back! Hints of a robotic Mister Miracle were dropped in issues #38 and #39.

Doomsday 2. Superman: folks, this was a hard storyline to deal with back in 1993. Even in re-reading it for this article I was overwhelmed with emotion that the Man of Steel had been brutally killed. Superman is a 20th century phenomenon who has become an important pop\folk figure of mythic and iconic stature. It is what he symbolizes this has established him so much in the public’s mind; that is, his character and exemplary life.

If you haven’t heard of the Doomsday series then you need to come out of that hermitage more often! The action kicked off officially in Justice League America #69 and continued through all the Superman titles through to Superman #75. The creature (nicknamed Doomsday) went on a multi-state destruction spree, The League, first without Superman and then with him, battled the living killing machine. Wanton annihilation was his goal. The battle reached a climax when, after the JLA had been thoroughly trounced, Superman fought the creature to the death of both combatants. Shock and disbelief settled in among DC universe characters and DC comic readers over the next couple of months. His body had been buried (and stolen and returned) and he really was gone. The Superman titles were on hiatus. Numbness set it and we all hoped that this was a simply a terrible mistake that would soon be resolved.

da scoop: There was simply no way that DC was going to keep it’s “bread and butter” buried six-feet under! So the wish came true and, this time, Superman beat death (literally). This was covered in the “Reign Of The Superman” storyline that ran in the Superman titles. The good side to the whole affair is that some new and interesting characters were introduced to the DC universe (e.g. Superboy and Steel). The down side to it all was that all the grieving seemed trite and irrelevant in hindsight. Part of me thinks that it would have been brilliant on DC’s part if they had left him in the grave. this would have forced readers and DC characters to come to grips with the death as a final and lasting event. The storyline could have been called “He Ain’t Comin’ Back!”.

3. Booster Gold: the man from the future had been a League member in standing for years at this point. The arcing storyline had been called “Judgment Day” and appeared in all three Justice League titles of the time; Justice League America, Justice League International, and Justice League task Force. The antagonist was a sentient being of immense power called the Overmaster. He had a massive ship that he parked above Mt. Everest as he made preparations to eradicate all human life. The three JL teams gathered to combine their abilities so as to defeat the being before his plans were fulfilled. Booster, who assumed he knew how the situation would pan out, foolishly leapt into action as was promptly relieved of his right arm (by means of an axe in JLA #89!). After efforts were taken to keep him alive he died in Justice League task Force #13. This is where things “get weird”!

The Overmaster put death and births “on hold”! As a result Booster still lived, while he was dead… uh, I don’t understand it either so don’t bother asking. Once they defeated the Overmaster they knew that Booster would turn from a sort-of zombie back into a real dead person(?). The League overcame their foe and, right on schedule, Booster Gold died in Justice League International #66… sort of.

da scoop : Seeing as Booster is currently alive in the DC universe he obviously didn’t stay dead. In fact, he came back to life (again!) in JLI #66. Ted, the Blue Beetle, had installed an emergency back-up life support system in Booster’s armor that kept him alive. He arm was still gone. But he was alive as long as he kept the armor on (how does the guy shower ???). I never cared much for Booster so it would have been A-OK with me if the guy with the blue and gold costume had ended up as a shiny popsicle on Mt. Everest… heh heh heh.

I am going to continue this theme in next month’s issue.. sooooo, hold on to your seats and keep on reading the other great FANZING articles! Write in with comments, questions, or critiques to bbbachand@hotmail.com. Bye for now.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
All scanned artwork is ™ DC Comics.
This article is © July, 1998 by Bruce Bachand.

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