Justice League 3000: Why It's In Its Own Little World

Recently, DC Entertainment announced that the currently-ongoing Justice League 3000 will see a bit of a shift in focus coming up, as the current team discover the cryogenically frozen Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, and thaw them out to join up.

The thing that was oddest about the whole thing is that it was the disco collar look for Booster Gold and Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, who had never actually served in the role in the New 52. It was, then, the pre-New 52 versions of those characters, no?

Well, there are a couple of things wrong with that: the pre-New 52 version of Booster Gold was a Time Master and in defense of the timestream, who made his way first to the Flashpoint universe and later to the New 52. We saw him go from the previous universe to this one, and so the idea that Justice League 3000's Booster could be that guy doesn't make any sense.

Meanwhile, Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, was murdered in a story published in 2005...and never resurrected. So by the time the universe rebooted, he wouldn't have been a great candidate to carry over to the new world, either.

So, what world are they from, exactly? Why, the Giffenverse!

That's what I'm calling it, anyway. Ever since Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis started writing Justice League in 1987, they've kind of played by their own rules, written the characters their way and sometimes depicted them in a manner wildly out of step with the rest of the writers of the DC Universe. Guy Gardner, whose brain damage was played super serious in Silver Age Green Lantern stories, once again suffered head trauma in the Giffen/DeMatteis years, but it was played for laughs and altered his personality in abrupt, cartoonish ways. His self-centered rudeness was ratcheted up, too, so much so that when he was knocked out by Batman in one punch, both readers and the other characters celebrated it and it became one of the best-known moments of the run (reused in a DeMatteis-penned episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold).

I love both versions (I know, right? I'm a complicated guy...), but can see why it would be confusing for continuity nuts to really wrap their head around. Often over the years, I'd spoken with friends and even some comics creators about the idea that Giffen and DeMatteis's stories seemed to inhabit their own space independent of the DC Universe, and with the acknowledgment that Beetle and Booster came from the same past that gave us Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League but not the future that brought us Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it seems that my worldview has been validated by DC's in-house continuity.

I sat down with Marlene from I Like Comics Too, one of the only people working in this business who loves Beetle and Booster as much as I do, to talk about the differences between the pre-New 52 DC Universe iteration of the characters, and the Giffen/DeMatteis versions...

Russ: One of my readers pointed out that he didn't understand why a future based on Giffen & DeMatteis's stories would be any different from the future of the pre-New 52 DC Universe. I figured it couldn't hurt to look at that a little bit.

I mean, there are some obvious differences, right? Dan Jurgens actually wrote a line into Booster Gold Vol. 2 to accommodate the whole "married a rich old heiress" thing (even if the line was that he was joking) but that's about it. There are plenty of other things that happen in the Keith and Marc stories that don't seem to have any bearing on the rest of the DC Universe, and/or conflict with existing stories.

Marlene: There are definitely some differences in how the characters are written, especially Booster. Though Jurgens created him as an unconventional, mildly air-headed superhero-for-hire, it was the original Justice League International run that really shaped the character as most fans know and love him. It's also where his relationship with Blue Beetle was fleshed out.

Compared to Jurgens' original design through Booster's self-titled series and his eventual modern adaptation with the New 52 reboot, Giffen & DeMatteis's version was far sillier and more immature. While he and Beetle certainly had their clever moments, they primarily served as the comic relief of the team.

Giffen's Booster did somber up considerably by [the Keith Giffen/Judd Winick-scripted maxiseries] Generation Lost and at that point was probably a little closer to the New 52 version, though that was a direct result of his relationship with Ted and his sacrifice around Infinite Crisis. The fact that this sacrifice will never have happened but that they still know each other today, in the pair's return to DC Comics, means that we'll probably rewind to the silly dynamic duo of JLI days that loved to steal J'Onn's Chocos.

Which is kind of strange, given how much [DC Comics co-publisher Dan] DiDio especially avoided bringing back Ted and seemed to express distaste toward the JLI versions of the characters, but... shrug.

Russ: See, I think you hit on something which, to me, is a reason that I wanted to bounce some of this off of you. That DiDio was, or seemed, so opposed to doing ANYTHING with Ted as soon as Jaime was introduced always seemed a little out of character in the old DCU, where legacy was such an important aspect of the universe.

In the New 52, it actually kind of makes sense to limit it to just one character per identity, at least for the moment, since there's only five years of history and you don't want to create a bottleneck of characters calling themselves something, like they did with Robin.

That said, it seems like the only way they know how to handle these characters [as a duo] is by handing them over to Marc and Keith and going, "Hey, you guys do your thing." Geoff [Johns] and Dan's efforts in BG Vol. 2 felt somewhat sabotaged to me by the fact that you had Rip Hunter in the background, chastising Michael the whole time so that we never had a moment when we didn't understand that, yes, when all of this is over we have to put Ted back in the toy box.

Later in that same volume, Ted showed up in Marc and Keith's run...and suddenly it was JLI all over again, and for the duration of their run, Ted was just...there. With little or no objection from Rip or anybody else.

Given all that, do you think it's more or less inevitable that Marc and Keith will transform JL3K overnight into a more straightforward comedy book than it's been so far?

Marlene: Right! The brief references we got to Ted with Jaime's original run were so great. I still remember the "W.W.T.K.D." sticky note on Jaime's cork board fondly. He really researched his predecessor and looked up to him, wanted to fill those shoes. It meant something. I was sad to see that dynamic gone when Ted was just awkwardly wiped from existence.

Honestly, DiDio was tired of people referencing Blue and Gold's antics from their JLI days. DC obviously had a very clear, very somber vision when they decided on the reboot and the pair had no place in it as they were. I'm not sure if they're changing tactics now because something isn't working or because they just want to experiment, but I'm not complaining because they're bringing them back!

I agree about BG Vol 2. I understand they wanted the focus to be on Michael and develop his relationship with the time stream, but it also felt a little stiff and overly complex. Still, I appreciate that they were trying to add more dimension to a character who is supposed to be, at least on the surface, incredibly selfish and single-minded. We always knew there was more to Booster, but a lot of readers still don't even know who the character is even on the surface.

To answer your question: that's hard to say. I think that with the overall tone of DC's content after the reboot, they probably won't get away with quite as much slapstick as they have in the past. I do expect a lot of comedy, though, especially since in the last interview I read they're really emphasizing that this is the same, zany duo that we knew before the reboot. No tricks. It's really them as they were. That has to mean Booster and Beetle are going to indulge in some level of idiocy and mischief, though maybe not a straightforward comedy book, if DiDio has any say.

You should check out Marlene's site at the link above, or follow her on Twitter. Her YouTube videos are pretty awesome, too.