In one of the recent Greg Hatcher reprint columns, Greg pondered how much you can rework a character before they’re someone else. That got me thinking about how that applies to super-teams.
Teams, after all, are different from individual heroes. Someone new takes up the role of Superman/Flash/Batman/Captain America, it’s a big deal. Most teams change their makeup all the time; even the Fantastic Four have had Luke Cage and others step in as temporary members. Even so, I think there’s a point at which a team stops being the team I care about, though membership isn’t usually the deal-breaker. What the deal-breaker is varies from team to team.
Teams With a Mission Statement. For most teams “beat up bad people, save innocent people” is enough of a raison d’etre but a few comics teams are defined by a more distinctive core concept. The Invaders, for example, are a World War II team that fights the Axis. Creating a present day Invaders? No, sorry, not even if they’re fighting neo-Nazis.
Alpha Flight are Canada’s super-team. While Tom Brevoort may be right that this isn’t enough of a hook for most readers (I don’t have the link to the statement), putting them on a satellite to defend the Earth disqualifies them as Alpha Flight for me (and, I know, Le Messor).
The Defenders are the non-team, sticking together purely by choice. I’ve seen a couple of efforts to formalize the membership — Nighthawk tried hiring a new roster, for instance — and again, no. If it’s formal organization you want, open an Avengers branch or join the Rotarians.
Like I said, membership isn’t usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back. However I had no interest in Luthor’s Infininty Inc. from about 15 years ago. Infinity Inc. is the JSA’s kids and a few extras like Sylvester Pemberton. End of story. The Fantastic Four needs to be the classic four, though I can live with occasional, temporary replacements. Those are mostly of interest, though, because they contrast with what the team is supposed to be.
While the Defenders membership has varied wildly over the years, I do think the core, as someone once quipped, is “Bird Nose, Sword Girl, Dumb Magician, Fish Man and Hulk.” If we can’t get all of them, at least some of them.
I loved Mike Barr’s Outsiders but I don’t like the concept of the Outsiders enough to want to see what someone else can do with them. Nothing I saw of Judd Winick’s take changed my mind. Even with Batrman in charge, it’s not the team I care about.Continuity
With the Justice League and the Justice Society, I’m much more open to change. As long as the book establishes some sort of continuity with what’s gone before, I’m good with it. Different lineup? Fine. Headquarters in a satellite instead of inside a mountain? Cool.
That doesn’t mean I’ll like a given era, just that I’ll accept it: the Detroit League and the Giffen/DeMatteis Wacky League didn’t work for me at all but I don’t question their right to the name. Splinter teams such as West Coast Avengers are okay too, but I can’t take the prequel Avengers (1950s Avengers! Stone-Age Avengers!) as anything to do with the “real” team.
With the Legion of Superheroes it’s the opposite. The reboot after Zero Hour erased their previous history, giving us a team that had no connection with what went before. When i glanced at an issue it was mostly well done but I never felt my long run of Legion books needed to include it. Every subsequent reboot has made me less and less interested.
I don’t give a crap
I like the Silver Age Teen Titans and I love the Wolfman/Perez version. By the time the original run wrapped up, Wolfman had made such a dark, grim-mess of the book (he’s admitted in interviews he should have quit sooner) I didn’t care it was gone. The revivals can do whatever they like with the name; I don’t care (from what I’ve seen, most of what they’ve done is not good).
Of course, someone could come along, defy the rules I’ve spelled out here and do it so brilliantly I’ll love it. But until then, that’s my assessment. If you disagree, or would like to discuss the many teams I didn’t cover, comments are open.
#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema, Jim Aparo and George Perez