Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Global Guardians

I wasn't paying much attention to the new Justice League International comic, featuring members of the old JLI from the late 80s and 90s, or in the case of Rocket Red, his replacement. No, not even Vixen's inclusion had me interested. Then they revealed that in addition to Fire & Ice, another former member of the Global Guardians, Godiva would be a member. (The Mystery Woman in black is still a mystery.)

Who were the Global Guardians? In actuality, some of them were among the earliest super heroes I encountered in comics... years before I learned of the existence of The Elongated Man or Zatanna, in Super Friends #25, I encountered Tasmanian Devil, The Seraph and the woman who would eventually be reinvented as Fire, then going by the moniker Green Fury. That's right, these characters actually originated in the out-of-continuity Super Friends comic book. And yet, while the Super Friends concept never actually existed in the mainstream DCU, the Global Guardians do!

The majority of the team first showed up in a thrilling two-part adventure, penned by E. Nelson Bridwell and illustrated by the amazing Ramona Fradon, which actually depicts The Wonder Twins' arrival on Earth and their replacing Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog as the Super Friends' teenage charges. The Twins arrive on Earth to warn its heroes that Silver Age Superman foe, Grax, has planted 12 bombs across the world. Even the combined power of the entire Justice League isn't enough to defuse each bomb before it detonates. Therefore, the JLA puts out a call to heroes around the globe to assist them on their mission.
In Israel, Superman teams up with the Biblical-powered Seraph, who has long hair that grants him super strength like Samson, his suit is made from the Mantle of the prophet Elijah and he wields the staff of Moses, which he uses to part a field of darkness and the ring of Solomon, which allows him to teleport. I personally find it pretty fascinating to see a hero with Christian-based powers, what with all the heroes based on other mythologies like Thor and Wonder Woman.
Near Stone Henge, Elongated Man encounters British (and apparently cockney) hero, Godiva, who can shape her long hair into any form and harden it, as she does in the above picture, creating wings.
In South Africa, The Flash teams up with Zulu hero Impala, who has the speed and leaping ability of the animal he after which he is named.
Back in the good ol' U.S. of A., Hawkman and Hawkwoman join forces with Native American Owlwoman, who, as her name suggests, can fly, see in the dark and wears sharp talons on her gloves.
The Atom teams up with the solar-powered Rising Sun from Japan, who is sadly rendered in an old-fashioned racist manner with big teeth and orange skin. He probably had a tiny penis inside that Elvis-y jumpsuit, too but at least he was great at math.
Green Lantern journeys to Ireland, where he encounters a fellow lantern-wielding hero, Jack O'Lantern, whose powers are derived from the local fairy folk. Jack O'Lantern and Seraph were both later given their own backup strips in the Super Friends comic and it is established that he also has a leprechaun sidekick! No seriously!
Red Tornado gets sucked through time and must battle dinosaurs alongside New Zealand's resident hero Tuatara, named after a three-eyed reptile indigenous to that area. With his third eye (why does that sound dirty?), Tuatara can see through time.
Venuzuela's you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me-ly named Bushmaster possesses no super powers, but has crafted a suit mimicking the abilities of various amphibians, like "flying dragon wings" after the Malaysian Lizard, long toe-like appendages on his feet that allow him to run across the surface of water like a basilisk and so forth. He is joined on his mission by Batman and Robin.
Black Canary adds her super sonic Canary Cry to the "booming" vocal powers of Taiwan's Thunderlord.
Green Arrow encounters Australia's monstrous hero, Tasmanian Devil (no relation to the Loony Tunes character). I really hate the giant T on his chest. Especially after artists started drawing him as a furry man-monster, not just some dude in a black bodysuit. It's like a really detailed skunk stripe!
Aquaman joins forces with Denmark's teenage hero, The Little Mermaid, who can either sport legs or a mermaid tail and can also fly!
In Greece, Wonder Woman teams with fellow mythologically-powered hero, The Olympian, who wears the legendary Golden Fleece, granting him the powers of all the legendary Argonauts, who sought it in The Iliad, including the ability to see through stone like Lynkeus, the super strength of Herakles, the speed of Euphemos and flying ability of Kalais and Zetes.
Finally, Norway's Icemaiden assists the entire Justice League in diffusing the final bomb.
The characters either proved popular or possibly, Bridwell just liked them, so he brought several of them back in subsequent Super Friends stories. As I said, Seraph and Jack O'Lantern starred in their own backup stories in the book. In Super Friends #25, Tasmanian Devil and Seraph both battle the Super Friends who have been brainwashed. In the same issue, a new International hero debuts.
Brazil's Green Fury has a variety of magical powers, most notably the ability to breath fire or ice and flight. Green Fury popped up several more times in the Super Friends book, including the final issue.
In another subsequent tale, the Super Friends are assisted by African immortal Doctor Mist, who joins forces with the team to battle a radioactive menace and later "the Mindless Immortal."
The Super Friends comic was set outside of the "real" DC Universe's continuity, therefore these original characters didn't exist in the real DCU... until Bridwell crafted an issue of DC Comics Presents, a book very much inside of DC's continuity, wherein Superman joins forces with a handful of these international heroes, referred to for the first time as the Global Guardians. It is also revealed that Doctor Mist is the team's leader and founder. So now, even though the Super Friends didn't exist in the mainstream comics, the Global Guardians did.
This was cemented when these heroes joined forces with the rest of DC's heroes in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Soon afterward, they teamed up with Infinity Inc. In this adventure, Green Fury suddenly became Green Flame, so as not to be confused with II's resident heroine Fury.
Green Flame and Icemaiden, who was suddenly no longer blue, joined Justice League International and have proven to be the Guardians' most famous alumni. Soon after joining, they switched their monikers to Fire & Ice. However, I'm not sure who to blame for this, but in the Super Friends comic, Icemaiden's real name is listed as Sigrid Nansen, and like I said, she was blue. Now, however, the JLI writers, J.M. DeMatteis and Kieth Giffen stated that her name was Tora Olafsdotter. More on that in a bit...

Considering the Global Guardians' innocent beginnings in the child-targeted Super Friends comic (hell, pretty much EVERY comic back then was child-targeted!), with their semi-educational bent, things got remarkably bleak for them in the 80s and beyond. What's really strange about this is that a lot of the dark story lines took place in the Justice League International title(and its spin-off book Justice League Europe) which are remembered for being funny and light! Sigh... but the years haven't been kind to these slightly stereotypical ethnic super heroes.

First, the United Nations, who had funded the Guardians, withdrew its support in favor of the JLI. This led to the Guardians allying themselves with Middle Eastern terrorists, notably the Queen Bee. After a battle with the JLE, Jack O'Lantern was left to die in a sewer. Queen Bee replaced him with a man named Marvin Nirosa. Owlwoman, who was dating Jack O'Lantern, then killed Nirosa. Owlwoman, Jack O'Lantern (the original), Seraph and Dr. Mist helped free the rest of the Global Guardians from the Queen Bee's control.

Jack O'Lantern later died of "natural causes." He has since been replaced by his cousin, Liam McHugh.
Little Mermaid was killed in battle with the Queen Bee. However, whoopsie, someone messed up and she popped up in a later story, thus it was explained that the Little Mermaid that was killed was actually an "evil clone."

In a subsequent story, Dr. Mist leads his team against his ancient enemy Fain Y'Onia. In battle, Fain Y'Onia kills Thunderlord and Bushmaster. Tuatara is left in a coma and Impala seemingly loses his powers. They returned at some point, as he is later seen battling for his life in Roulette's gladiator-style super hero death matches. He, um, lost. He has since been succeeded by Kid Impala.

Wild Huntsman body mysteriously appears in a prison cell in an issue of Suicide Squad.

Doctor Mist was killed by mystical forces, however, um... like with Little Mermaid, someone missed that and he later popped up alive with no explanation. He was killed AGAIN when Mordru the sorcerer threw him into a vat of acid.

Godiva was recently depicted as the victim of "organ-nappers"... the organ stolen from her? Her prehensile hair.

Ice was killed off during her time with the Justice League. At this point, the original Icemaiden, Sigrid Nansen returned and took her place in the Justice League. She was gravely injured escaping the exploding Justice League satellite during the invasion by White Martians. She recovered and joined a new, unsanctioned Justice League Europe, but was fooled into leaving by The Mist, who disguised herself as Icemaiden and killed three of her teammates, Crimson Fox, Blue Devil and Amazing Man. Icemaiden herself was later skinned alive by the villain Dolores Winters. She's still alive. Yuck. (Ice, Tora Olafsdotter, recently returned to life.)

In another mix-up, I suspect, at one point, Tasmanian Devil became the sole member of Justice League Australia. The JL's civilian liaison there was an openly gay man, however he only had one appearance that I know of. In subsequent appearances, it was established that Tasmanian Devil himself was openly gay. (Maybe the implication is that the two were a couple?) Anyway, TD went on to be one of the few openly gay heroes in the DCU and actually served as a member of the Justice League for a bit. He was recently killed and skinned to make a rug by the villain Prometheus, although he was later restored to life via Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pit. He has begun dating the Justice League's Starman. He appears to still be active with the Global Guardians.

In addition, a member who joined later on, Gloss, was decapitated by Prometheus. Prometheus boasts about building up quite a head count among the Global Guardians, so it's unknown who else may have died at his hands.

There is a current Global Guadians, led by a new Crimson Fox (France) and including Jet (Jamaica), Manticore (Greece... although Olympian is still alive, as he recently appeared in Wonder Girl's miniseries), Sandstorm (Syria... possibly deceased) and Tasmanian Devil.
Like I said, kind of a bleak ending for characters from such a sunny, light origin! But Godiva's inclusion in Justice League International, I'm hoping for a renaissance for these characters. I'm hoping they pull a Mera with Godiva and she suddenly becomes super popular! And I always loved Fire & Ice, so I'll enjoy seeing them in a comic again. (Dr. Light would seem to be a great fit for this team, too. She should be on it!) I'll give it a shot at least!

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