Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Know your Justice Leaguer

In a previous article, I made the personality profile of The Elongated Man. Knowing what makes a character tick is what makes them interesting. The bad (or the badass) seems to be the flavor of the day since the late 80s. Everybody needed to be like Rorschach, Batman or Wolverine to be cool. But that’s not good writing, just selling fool-proof hooks that can be pulled even by the lesser writers.
Good writers know how play with personality traits in order to sell any character. Take Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, as instance, Tolkien and Jackson, managed to make a pop cult icon out of Gollum, a petty worm who is the very antithesis of any type of alpha male. The most read book of all times is about a loon that sees windmills as villains. The most popular sitcom is about four neurotic misfits… The trick is to know the character and to know how to exploit his personality traits.
With that in mind, I give you a list of sketches the most notorious members of the Justice League. My focus is on temperament, which I consider the very core of a person’s attitude.

Aquaman: His personality has wildly changed in some media; however, in comics, he’s most commonly portrayed as a tough yet melancholic, no-nonsense guy with a lot of weight over his shoulders. That crown is heavy.
He has an old soul. Like Batman, his eye for detail is just as sharp as his eye for the big picture. He’s extremely loyal and noble, but he doesn’t waste time on lost causes.
Within the League he sits among the other "kings": Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter. I just happens.
Other versions have him as a merrier guy. Batman: The Brave and the Bold even gave him a loud, bigger than life personality, very similar to the Thor of the 2011 movie. It’s not the original deal, but I kind of like this better, even if toned down a bit.

The Atom: It is ironic, but the smallest man alive, often feels like a small man inside. Despite being a genius and having one of the greatest super powers, he tends to feel guilty and undeserving, making him the most typically melancholic member of the team. He’s very creative and escapes everyday life through science and superheroics. He pulled the whole superhero thing for a woman, who doesn’t seem to appreciate him that well, which doesn’t speak well of his self-esteem. Hawkman, his best friend is also bossy and overly confident. The second he gets out of his lab, Ray Palmer tends to give a lot, expecting nothing in return.
He loves his role as the idea guy of the JLA, he's no tactician, but when it comes to tehnical matters, hes the go-to guy.
However, he is sometimes portrayed as an absent-minded genius with little interests outside science; your average Egon Spengler, Gyro Gearloose or Mr. Fantastic.

Batman: A compulsive melancholic who is obsessed with perfection. Fueled by survivor’s guilt, makes sure he’s the best at everything he does, including being the ultimate alpha. He’s very methodical and needs to control people and information alike. Years of practice have made him faster when it comes to acquiring new skills. He is able to act like a very social person as Bruce Wayne, but that’s all it is, an act. He has deep trust issues and can’t communicate affection properly to his loved ones (even though he is not that bad at hinting it). His most significant love affair is with Catwoman, who is just as distant in her own way. 
Working with the JLA, he arrives late at the Watchtower, takes charge, solve the problem and goes back to Gotham.
During the silver age, both as Batman and as Bruce, he was more civic-minded, polite and preachy. This characterization was reused with some added coolness in 
Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Black Canary: She’s an overachiever, focusing all her dedication and discipline in continuing her mother’s legacy as a superhero. Mother issues and poor taste in men are perhaps the biggest aspects of her personal life. Opposed to Green Arrow, she’s also a strong, independent woman with feminist values. She works her ass off; Hal would just get the job done right with the best  tool available, and then hit the bar; by contrast, Dinah would do hours of exhaustive practice, almost as intensively as Batman. She plays hard to get, but she is no Catwoman. Ollie is her weakness; she demands a lot of herself only to fall for the resident ladies man. Her temperament is a bit melancholic, but phlegmatic enough to have great people skills, which makes her a perfect field leader.

The Elongated Man: The guy is all about doing what he loves and getting some attention while he’s there, by far, the most laid back out of the classic leaguers; a perfectly sanguine type. He’s quite diligent but wastes no extra energy to get the job done; he’s so practical that in his debut, he proved to be a faster crime-solver than Flash himself. He can solve anything Batman does – only with fewer resources and more lateral thinking. He's often the one who humbly presents a practical solution when the team seems to be up against the wall (even more often when Batman is not around). 
Out of the entire league, he’s the one that makes the most assertive life-choices and avoids drama the best. Ralph is a fun guy who managed to get the money, the girl, the fame and the status on his first day and then saves the world merely by “stretching at the right time”.

Firestorm: Ronnie is frat guy with a heart of gold. Being analytic never worked for him, so he focused on fun and what makes a male kid popular, but then, he got a challenge and was forced to change his ways. His fusion with Professor Martin Stein is like a permanent, intensive and forced mentorship that forces him to overcome that one aspect of his life he used to neglect. The way he acts, he looks self-secure, yet, he’s overcompensating for his lack of intellectuality, which he is overcoming as Firestorm. The JLA became even more reinforcement. Starting with Superman, they believe in his potential. He's the rookie of the team and when it came to fitting in, Ralph often took him under his wing.  

The Flash: One of the hardest to define for many people. He’s all about diligence and a huge sense of civic duty. His temperament is somewhere between phlegmatic and melancholic. He feels the need to complete great task and to do it step by step and by the book, often missing the forest for the tree. However, he can still be very creative. He’s very similar to Superman, only less bold, more humble and more of a side thinker. And while Clark pretends to be boring, Barry is the genuine article.

Green Arrow: This one is all about character. He’s sanguine like Hal, only with a shorter temper, savvier and more stubborn. He relies heavily on common sense and cynical observation to the point that he is perhaps the best judge of character in the League and, even though he’s about as old as the rest, he’s seen the “old devil” of the team. 
He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and yet, he’s so stubbornly liberal that he became the most socially aware JLAer; he’s the guy that often keeps the rest grounded. To him, watching out for the little guy is way more important than defeating the bad guy and his teammates appreciate him for that. That being said, he can also be patronizing, flawed and a bit chauvinistic. The fact that he’s an idealist doesn't mean that his behavior is perfect as a person, especially when it comes to women.

Green Lantern: The guy is the epitome of the charming alpha male. He likes, he takes. He shoots, he scores; very good at saving the day, getting the girl and having a great time. However, like a good sanguine (and unlike Ralph), he is not that great on the long term. Hal can’t keep the girl and doesn't really climb the job ladder, even when he has all the opportunities there. He probably feels a bit undeserving under all that cockiness.

Hawkman: He is a tough alpha male; nerves of steel, sharp, to the point; never misses a thing and he is always talking with authority. He never backs away from his frame. His views are often the toughest of the team. He and his wife might walk around bare-naked, yet he is very conservative (Republican in fact), overprotective with women (at least one time with Black Canary and often with his wife) and he takes the most aggressive stands on punishments.
As serious as Katar is, the ones that get close to him like Hawkgirl, the Atom and Elongated Man, can get him to show his lighter side.  That being said, he can’t stand Ollie.

Superman:  I always say, when your father treats you as if you were Superman, you end up flying. This is literally the case with Clark. He comes from two great sets of parents, the first gave them his genetic characteristics and the double gift of life and the second raised him as an assertive man with great values. He might feel the weight of the World when it comes to do the right thing with his powers (especially in the last decades), but classically, he does good because he truly likes and believes in kindness, Midwestern, all-American kindness.
The big difference with Barry, is that he is not as pressured by guilt, and that, as Clark, he only pretends to be a square. When it comes to Lois, he barely minds her aggressive exterior; he can only look at her great fiery heart.
In general, he’s easy going and calm. Modern interpretations have him more introspective, early ones had him self-righteous and the ones from the silver age, had him more easy going and even more chivalrous, with a slightly geeky sense of fun.

Wonder Woman: She is like Athena or King Solomon: graceful, merciful, assertive, proper, respectful, wise, kind and as self-secure as the archetypal good monarch. Generally calm and nice, she has no trouble being aggressive and taking the bull by its horns when the situation requires it. I would say that she is the best leader a team can have (keep in mind that leadership rotated in the original JLA).
With so many attributes everybody is in love with her; yet, she has something that prevents most from hitting on her. At some points she has been attracted to the idealist Superman, and at least an interpretation has had her with a thing for the more magnetic Batman; however, the guy that gets her heart (Steve Trevor)  is a suave gentleman with the right cause.

Zatanna: She is a crowd pleaser, loves the attention and manages to get that with her charming personality. Since she was created, there has always been constant drama on her life, she is always missing something, which tells me that she is a bit codependent. She’s mostly sanguine, having fun and going with the flow; however, she also has some supine and melancholic characteristics. Between the lines, I have noticed some daddy issues in her persona.

Did you like the character profiles? Here are some more:

Know your Super Buddy!
Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire,  Ice, Sue, 
Maxwell and the rest of the late 80s gang!

Know your Bat-Villain! Part I - 
Probably the craziest supervillains in 
American comics, so it is a longer read.


  1. WOW! Nice analysis of these characters! I liked your thoughts on Firestorm especially. One thing I always liked about Ralph during his JLE years was his sense of fun! Adventure was the order of the day and he thrived on it!

    Glad to see your blog postings again! Welcome back! And thanks for using that Zatanna picture. :)

    The Irredeemable Shag

  2. I love that Zee got that, er.. 'enhancement'. I didn't mention it because it's mostly my perception, but she has certain 'Madonna' or 'Lady Gaga' tones in that she's in showbiz and enjoys showing skin, to the point that it's some sort of artistic statement. The 3 of them have daddy and relationship issues. That being said, the difference is that Zee seems to be rather melancholic and wears a mask of charm that prevents her from showing her true emotions (she's lonely). This side is a bit more like J-Lo. I think Gaiman should work on her.

    I'll modify Ralph and Batman for their upcoming ( ;) ) JLI profiles.

  3. I just discovered this blog yesterday and it's terrific. This is a great post on the personalities of all the Leaguers; spot-on analysis. Well done!

    I run a Black Canary blog and for the last two Thursdays I've posted reviews of Wonder Woman #308 and #309 which guest-starred Dinah and Ralph! Check 'em out if you like:

    Keep up the good work. This is a fun blog!

    1. Thank you, Count Drunkula (did you take your nickname from Will and Grace, or is it older than that?).
      Can you provide me the link to the specific article? I am interested in making a post about it.