I read a lot of webcomics, as this blog has documented in depth, and one of my favorites, introduced to me this past fall by a friend of mine, is Yale Stewart’s JL8, which imagines a world where Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Power Girl and Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) not only have their powers, but are all in grade school together at–you guessed it–8 years old.
Stewart’s art is cartoonish and pleasing, and his writing accurately captures what it might be like to be a kid with superpowers, while also incorporating shoutouts to longtime DC fans. After a long hiatus (mostly due to him, among other things, actually getting professional comics work), he started updating again and it’s been great. (If you’re interested, you can start here.)
Besides that, another thing has reminded me of how much I love the DC Universe. And that’s Justice League, the Bruce Timm cartoon that ran for 2 seasons on Cartoon Network before transitioning to Justice League Unlimited for three more seasons.
I didn’t actually have Cartoon Network when this show came out, but I owned the pilot movie (split into three episodes) and a DVD containing the first 2 stories (which, like every story of this show, are both two-parters) and I loved them, so I’d rewatch them over and over again. I found out both this show and JLU are on Netflix so I’ve been getting back into it, just finishing the first season the other night.
Some people have complained that the show focuses too much on Batman to the detriment of the other heroes, or that Superman is consistently made to look like a loser, and while I get those points, for me, the show encapsulates just why I love the DC Universe.
Despite all the darkness that’s crowded around it in recent decades, the DCU, as a whole, is about people from all over the universe recognizing they have extraordinary abilities and using those to save people, to help people and to inspire them. If comic books are our modern mythology, the DC Universe is a particular strand that’s, for the most part, optimistic. DC heroes may fight or have differences, but they can put them aside whenever people are in danger.
(I should also point out that it truly is an all-encompassing mythology. The Fanholes Podcast discussed recently a two–part miniseries called History of the DC Universe that ties every character (well, in 1986 anyway) into one grand timeline encompassing the history of the universe, and it’s fascinating in its cohesiveness and consistency.)
The sheer icons that stand out–Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and so on–are the easiest to think of, but even the more obscure, like, say, Mr. Terrific, have the same goal in mind. They don’t want to rule or enslave, but they want to guide. They want to protect. They want to help.
It’s that compassion–that resolve to protect everyone or to make sure that what happened one night in Crime Alley never happens to anyone again–that defines these heroes and their stories.
And that’s why I keep coming back.