Ask Chris #88: The Justice League of Professional Wrestlers
Here at ComicsAlliance, we value our readership and are always open to what the masses of Internet readers have to say. That's why every week, Senior Writer Chris Sims puts his comics culture knowledge to the test as he responds to your reader questions!
Q: Let's say the Justice League has fallen to Darkseid or some other Ultimate Evil. It's up to you to hand pick seven professional wrestlers from any era to replace them. Who do you select, besides the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, who is A GIVEN. -- Michael Haynes, via email
A: Let me tell you something, Michael "P.S." Haynes: I like your style. For one thing, even though it was how I killed countless hours back at my old job, to the point where I once had a serious conversation with a coworker about how the McRib was definitely the Green Arrow of the McDonald's menu, it's been a while since I did a "who would replace the Justice League" question, and it's also been a while since I've had an Ask Chris about my love of pro wrestling. Although now that I think of it, both of those elements last showed up in columns involving My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
I've got a pretty weird job.And for another, you have correctly identified my first choice. If my goal here is to fill the seven archetypes of the Justice League with their closest equivalents in the Squared Circle, then my pick for Superman is definitely The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, circa 1985.
The parallels here are pretty obvious: The great thing about Superman is that for all the power that he has from being an alien energized by Earth's yellow sun, he's a human at heart, raised by farmers and taught to use his powers to stand up for those who couldn't do so themselves. Whether it was the populist super-heroics of the Golden Age or the battle against cosmic threats that only he could stand against, the core idea has always been that he's the ultimate champion of the common man. He might wine and dine with (Atlantean) kings and (Amazon) queens, but he also eats in... well, giant crystalline fortresses at the north pole that house a diary that he carves into metal slabs with his heat vision in the language of a dead planet. But whatever. Close enough.
Dusty's the same way. He might not have been raised by farmers in Smallvile, but as you might've noticed from the subtle message on his truly amazing T-shirt, he's the son of a plumber. And like Superman, his main value isn't just in his power, but in his ability to inspire others. Seriously, just watch this:
If you do not believe now that every piece of economic strife experienced by Middle America happened because of Ric Flair, then you must be that computer that took my job, daddy. That's hard times.
But while the Truth, Justice and American Dream connection is pretty obvious, filling the role of Batman is a little tougher. But one of the things that makes Batman so immediately appealing is that in order to fight crime, he didn't become a bright, shining symbol of justice. He became a "weird figure of the night" so that he could terrify his enemies, before beating them about the head and shoulders with little metal boomerangs shaped like his own costume, embracing scare tactics and violence in order to wage his war on evil. And one time, that involved reprogramming a dude's brain with Motor Neuron Disease and then punching him in the face.
In short, he became The Dirtiest Player in the Game.
At the height of his career in the late '80s, Ric Flair was basically the evil Bruce Wayne. He lived in the biggest house on the biggest hill on the biggest side of town -- though I don't think he ever cut a promo talking about how it had a cave underneath it with a giant penny and a robot dinosaur -- he flew around in his own jet, and he even had a team of sidekicks who had his back in case his opponents ever overwhelmed him. Hell, as my friend Scott pointed out, the dude's even known for wearing a big yellow belt.
Plus, he's got a history with Rhodes (you know, from that time Flair destroyed the economy by putting Rhodes out of action for a few months) and if there's one thing the story of pro wrestlers being recruited to battle cosmic evil needs, it's a little interpersonal conflict to keep things interesting.
The role of Wonder Woman is another tough one. I mean, yes, there's an obvious choice in the form of the WWE's Beth Phoenix, who wore a metal tiara, wrestles as "The Glamazon" and even cited Wonder Woman as an inspiration in an interview on the Art of Wrestling podcast. But for some reason, she doesn't quite fit in my mind, so instead, I'm going with Cheerleader Melissa.
And not because of my well-known love of cheersploitation cinema, either.
Well, okay: Not primarily because of my love of cheersploitation cinema. The fact is, Cheerleader Melissa is one of the best women wrestling today even without the pom-poms, and she fits pretty well with most of Wonder Woman's eccentricities. The Cheerleader gimmick, for instance, has its roots in her starting out as a cheerleader for a tag team working as a pair of hockey players, despite the fact that hockey teams do not have cheerleaders, and when you get right down to it, that makes about as much sense as a character based in Greek mythology from an island of Amazons dressing up in a crazy American flag costume.
Plus, she's currently the champion of the Shimmer Women Athletes promotion, which is about as close as pro wrestling gets to Themyscira.
Incidentally, Cheerleader Melissa's frequent opponent and occasional tag team partner, MsChif, also works as a scientist when she's not wrestling. If I was doing the whole dang Satellite League, she'd totally be the Atom, even though she's a microbiologist and a physicist.
There's no real connection there, but the Rock circa 1999 is probably in the top three things that have ever happened in professional wrestling history, and since Aquaman sucks, it's a nice way to trade up. And if you think I'm wrong and that Aquaman doesn't suck, well... you know the rest.
Figuring who was going to be stepping into the role of The Flash was actually pretty easy: "Lightning" Mike Quackenbush:
Not just because he's fast either, although he certainly is. I mean, there's a reason they call him "Lightning":
But it goes beyond that, and even beyond my view that The Flash should be a book about innovation and the fact that Quack's one of the most innovative and creative wrestlers around, both in and out of the ring. What it comes down to is the fact that, in my preferred era of the Justice League, the Flash was a dude with experience.
Wally West had been a super-hero since he was a kid, and when you combine that with the fact that he literally had the ability to think faster than everyone else, it made him a canny veteran of super-heroics, and that's exactly what this team so far has been missing. Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of ring experience, but when it comes to battling alien gods and space monsters, even Flair and Rhodes are lacking in that department. Quack, on the other hand... Well, let's talk about the time that he invented a submission hold called the Chikara Special, only to find that the secret counter to the hold had been taught to his enemies in a group called the Order of the Neo Solar Temple. Take it away, Wikipedia:
It wasn't until January 2009 when UltraMantis Black revealed that he had done this all to get a hold of the Eye of Tyr, a mysterious Scandinavian artifact that could be used to control people's minds, named after the Norse god of war.
This, of course, led to the formation of a group called Bruderschaft des Kreuzes, which would grow to include a gigantic viking named after a sea monster, who would take control of the "mysterious Scandinavian artifact," using it for their evil purposes until it was finally won back last November.
This is the kind of thing Quack has to deal with on a daily basis. He's already fighting super-villains.
And Quack's prsence also leads to our stand-in for Green Lantern: His old foe UltraMantis Black:
I'll admit that Green Lantern was the one that stumped me for the longest, but when I remembered that UltraMantis Black was part of a larger organization (The Order of the Neo Solar Temple), had just recently regained control of a strange weapon with seemingly cosmic powers (the Eye of Tyr), and even had a color in his name, it all pretty much fell into place.
Now we just need to wait to see if UltraMantises Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, Indigo, Violet and White show up in a crossover that lasts for roughly thirty-eight years.
Finally, we come to our last Justice League archetype, The Martian Manhunter. He's the wildcard, the guy with all of the powers of Superman, plus he can read your mind, turn invisible and walk through walls. He can change the tide of any battle, even if he was occasionally overshadowed by others. And really, there can be only one choice: The Macho Man Randy Savage.
I'm not going to lie: 90% of this choice is based on the fact that I really, really wanted to write "The Martian Macho Manhunter."
But for that other 10%, I think there's a real connection between Savage and his Martian counterpart. Namely, that they're goin' to the stars, yeah, the stars.
Space is the place, my friends. Space is the place.
Q: When Bruce is doing his first reconnaissance of Gotham's East End, he mentions Robinson Park, the Finger Memorial, Sprang Mission. That's come up again and again since as writers pay tribute to previous Bat writers and artists. My question was this the first time? -- Alan, via email
A: I'm not quite sure when the convention of naming things in fictional cities after creators was started -- and it seems to happen in Gotham City more than anywhere else, probably because it's the most prominent fictional city in comics, and certainly the one with the most character. Combine the crime and detective aspect of the Batman franchise, and you get a need to actually put names on locations. Superman might fight robots in "the skies over Metropolis," but with Batman, he's always investigating a murder that took place "at the corner of second and Sprang."
But it definitely didn't have its origins in Year One. The most prominent example of a specific, recurring location was already in place in the '70s, when Batman had moved into Wayne Tower in the heart of Gotham City. As seen in the panel at left from Untold Legend of the Batman #1 (1980), The Batcave beneath Wayne Tower had an entrance at Finger Alley, named for Batman's often unsung co-creator, Bill Finger.
I'm almost certain that this was introduced by long-time Batman writer Denny O'Neil, and now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure Robinson Park (Gotham's stand-in for New York's Central Park, named for Jerry Robinson) was one of his too. During his years as the editor of the Batman titles, he was undoubtedly at least partially responsible for codifying these into the Gotham City we know today, which features a Robert Kane Memorial Airport, a Miller Harbor, and the surprisingly crime-ridden intersection of O'Neil and Adams. Now if they could just get the Christopher J. Sims Library in there somewhere, we'd be set.
Before I wrap this up, I just want to say that today marks the 7th anniversary of the day I started writing about comics on the Internet, and I want to give an honest, sincere thank you to everyone out there who has been a part of letting me build my life around doing something fun and writing goofy things like this very column. Thanks, everybody!
That's all we have for this week, but if you've got a question you'd like to see Chris tackle in a future column, just send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #AskChris, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with [Ask Chris] in the subject line!