A Justice League Redesign Compendium

In 2012, as a sort of creative experiment, I began redesigning and re-imagining various characters from the DC Comics Universe. This is where you can find those designs all in a single page. Enjoy.

I’m imagining Clark Kent living in a world where other superheroes do already exist, and I’m going here for an outfit he might have put together on the fly (yeah, yeah... no pun intended) at the beginning of his career, with the help of Ma Kent, and then probably stuck with it for awhile.

I suppose the most noticeable change is the pants, which here have a strip down the side similar to some police or military dress pants.

The thing I feel the most strongly about, though, is switching out the colors on a more simplified “S”. Of all the primary colors, your yellow is going to pop the most, and maybe read better than the modern S shield design which, let’s face it, is way too busy.

Finally we have lace-up boxing/wrestling boots. Superman may have incredible strength and durability, but I imagine he’d still be thankful for a little traction.

Oh, and a short cape! Guy like Supes doesn’t really need a floor-length cloak, just a little added flourish.

So that’s Superman. And here’s my first pass at Wonder Woman -one of the most difficult superheroes to deal with:

The problem with Wonder Woman is that she’s a mess. Is she a Patriotic hero? A Modern Woman? A diplomatic ambassador? An Amazon Princess? A prostitute (as some of her costumes might lead you to believe)?

I decided to go Amazon Warrior, imagining a very powerful young woman from a lost Mediterranean culture (I should have gone a little darker on her skin). Like Thor, she might have been banished for sheer arrogance, and embarks on a quest through the modern world to learn what it means to be a hero. The blue star strewn cloth she wears -is it a symbol of her homeland? A talisman of her quest? I’m not sure... But I know that this version of Wonder Woman has no base of operations. She is a traveler. A homeless hero.

Here’s my second pass at Wonder Woman the Outcast:

I tried to throw a little Clint Eastwood into the poncho there.

If I were to do a Wonder Woman series as a comic or for television it would be a little like the old Incredible Hulk TV show. It would always open with her traveling down the road in her poncho and hat from dusty town to dusty town...

So we've seen the Farm Boy, and the Wanderer. Now let’s meet the Millionaire:

My Bruce Wayne lost his parents tragically, but uses that as an excuse to live an eccentric adventurous lifestyle. He joins the ranks of the powerful equipped with nothing more than a keen intellect and the best equipment money can buy.

This Bruce Wayne very much feels his lack of powers and makes up for it by staying one step ahead of everyone. And in fact it is assumed by the other heroes (even Superman) that he does have some strange set of super abilities.

I like both the elegant and the cluttered look for Batman, so I’ve tried to have it both ways here. Bruce is all tricked out with the best gadgets, but he keeps his cloak closed whenever possible, using it to cover up the fact that he’s really just super prepared.

I used a white bat in the hopes of giving him a formal wear look (like a tuxedo) because he’s the aristocrat of the group.

We’ve seen the Farm Boy, Wanderer, and Millionaire (he’s a billionaire, but millionaire still sounds more classy). Now the Athlete:

I like the idea of a Flash that starts out as a runner, even before he gets his powers. So with this in mind...

For a time, Barry Allen really was the fastest man alive. A consummate runner he briefly held the record for the fastest mile run. In a publicity venture later that year, the Fastest Man Alive was invited to a European laboratory to witness “the Fastest Particle in the Universe” in an experiment that hoped to accelerate particles far beyond the speed of light.

The experiment was a disaster. The particle accelerator malfunctioned catastrophically, and when the dust cleared Barry Allen was nowhere to be seen. The whole incident was hushed up.

Barry woke up alone on a desert island in the Pacific. Having been bombarded by strange Speed Force particles he finds he can move faster than ever before, and that he can slow down his perception of time. But his powers are only in their infancy and in order to survive on the island he must become more than just a runner. (I imagine the island scenes being a bit like the movie “Cast Away.”) One day his powers enhance to the point that he can run on the surface of the water and this brings hope for escape...

Barry’s powers are still growing.

Of all the Justice League characters, The Flash is the one who would really wear lycra or spandex. And for the design I looked up a bunch of sprinters online, then added a pull on mask, and gloves because he’s doing more than just running a race. Barry’s quick, but not invincible, so I imagine him as always taping up nicks and cuts. I also figure he goes through a dozen pairs of shoes a week.

And now ...The Cop:

John Stewart started out as one of New York’s Finest until one day the tough cop was tapped to join the ranks of the World’s Finest -a secret government organization that monitors extra terrestrial activity on Earth. A new world opened up to Stewart as he began spending his days hunting down rogue aliens in the mean streets of the worlds major cities. (think Die Hard’s John McClane meets Men In Black).

But Stewart soon begins to suspect that the Agency is rotten at the core. Some of the raids enacted by the Agency seem wrong ...and then a certain smiling red-caped hero appears on the Prime Target list. The Agency’s Director, Lex Luthor, seems increasingly unbalanced.

So Stewart takes it upon himself to break into the Agency’s most secret location -the Vault in Area 51, and there he finds their great secret: purple skinned alien Abin Sur who crashed to earth in the 40s and has been kept barely alive since. Sur is a Lantern, but the agency has been using him as a power source for all their weaponry.

When Abin Sur sees John Stewart trying to rescue him, he sees the thing he has been waiting for for 60 years. A hero. Abin Sur bequeaths the Lantern, and it’s two power rings, to Stewart. Abin Sur dies as the lantern sears itself into Stewarts chest. The lantern is weak, but it gives the cop just enough power to escape the Agency’s clutches.

Now he’s a rogue agent, a fugitive hunted by the agency he once worked for, and moving among the alien underground he once persecuted. And now, when he looks up at the stars, he feels something calling to him...

This has been the hardest design so far because it’s very different from the original, and the original Lantern costume (the Hal Jordan one) is great. My Green Lantern is going for a sort of Jason Bourne look and I imagine his story will have a Bourne feel, until he finally escapes the Earth and discovers the rest of the Lantern Corps. Of course the most noticeable thing is that the lantern is in his chest (like Tony Stark’s arc reactor) and I gave him two rings to even things out. One for each fist.

The classic imagination powers are, at this stage, latent.

So We've seen The Cop, now how about a look at The Outlaw, DC's other "green" hero:

Oliver Queen was born in a lab -the product of a genetic experiment aimed at creating five perfect assassins. Each child in the Royal Flush Project was bred with heightened reflexes and vision, muscle control, tactical prowess and a superhuman targeting ability.

But little Ollie was not like the others. Good tempered and caring even as an infant, he won the heart of one of the geneticists who smuggled him out of the lab one day and passed him off to a traveling circus -the only people who would take in a child with no documentation. And so Ollie found a better life.

Life with the circus was good, and he was a show-stopper with his knife throwing and trick arrow displays. But as he traveled from town to town, seeing more of the world, he became aware of injustice and enforced inequalities. Oliver began to feel that he should do more with his abilities than entertain a crowd. And then one day he saw a red-caped man who could fly, and he knew what he should do.

But the people Ollie wanted to fight for were often victimized by the very institutions that were supposed to protect them. So Oliver Queen became an outlaw. Now he fights for the little guys against abusive corporations, corrupt law enforcement and “legitimate businesses.”

And he’s been noticed.

Four perfect assassins have been put on his trail...

I’m kind of proud of this one. Our final founding member of the Justice League; my version of the Martian Manhunter:

Living on the streets is easy when you can pass through walls and turn invisible. But having no friends, no family? That’s hard. That’s a problem you can’t solve so easy. But Johnny Jonz has a plan.

On televisions he’s seen a red caped man who can fly, a man who can run faster than anything, and some kind of giant woman. They’re heroes, and they’re like him. Different. Johnny decides to become a hero too, and when he’s helped enough people the other heroes will come find him and he’ll finally have a family.

Of course fighting bad guys is pretty dangerous if all you can do is turn invisible or run through walls, but Johnny has a trick for that too. If things get really bad he can always just turn into The Monster. That’s usually enough to scare off just about any bad guy. And if not, well, The Monster can fly and throw cars around, and is pretty much invincible.

But Johnny hates the monster. At night, when he tries to sleep, he worries that he might have everything backwards. He might really just be a monster who has turned into a boy...

So here he is, Batman's secret weapon, his ace-in-the-hole, Robin the Boy Wonder:

How can the Batman cause the lights to go out over a city block just when it is most convenient? How does he know the whereabouts of high profile criminals from miles away? Why does he never show up on film, even when those standing around him do? Why does nearly all technology seem to bend to suit Bruce Wayne’s needs?

The answer is Robin, the “Boy Wonder.” A mysterious hacker-savant who just appeared in the cave below Wayne Manor one day and, without a word of explanation, began building a very powerful computer, and using it to do the most amazing things...

Bruce still doesn’t have any idea who the boy is or where he came from.

The boy calls himself “Robin” and Batman doesn’t trust him at all.

---

A couple notes on this Robin:

1. This is not Dick Grayson.

2. Hacking is a funny trope these days, with characters using the “power of hack” to do all sorts of crazy impossible stuff. This kid probably has a strange technological meta-ability similar to Gary’s ability on Alphas. So it’s computer-magic. I even had this thought that the laptop he carries might just be a prop.

3. Probably this strange kid will eventually break away from Batman and become Oracle.

Here's my take on Supergirl, a young version and a growed up version, along with my particular idea for what I would do if I had my own shot at a Supergirl miniseries:

There’s one in every family.

Kara Zor-El was the daughter of Jor-El’s wealthy-yet-disreputable brother, making her the cousin of the infant Kal-El. On Krypton, Kara was doted on and spoiled, and she loved nothing better than sneaking into places where she wasn’t supposed to go.

That’s why she was in Jor-El’s laboratory on Krypton’s last day, watching her father and his brother, the eminent scientist and the sleazy politician, having their last fraternal argument. To avoid being caught, she hid herself in a prototype ship, a ship very much like the one she watched her little cousin being placed inside. And as the tremors began, Kara fell against the control panel activating the prototype ship’s launch sequence.

Due to the mysterious tricks of space travel, relativity and stasis, Kara’s ship arrived on earth 25 years behind Kal-El’s ship.

If I were writing a Supergirl miniseries it would begin with Clark Kent being about 25, a young superhero just starting his career, when suddenly he finds himself responsible for a very spoiled, very powerful 9-year-old.

Since she doesn’t arrive on earth as an infant, Kara would start out being much more of an alien, and having a harder time adjusting to life on Earth. And due to the mysterious tricks of Kryptonian biology, her powers develop much more quickly, but to a lesser extent than Superman’s.

The series would cover 10 years, up to the point when Kara is 19 and Clark is 35. It would end with the arrival of Brainiac, which threatens the whole Earth, and is the impetus for Kara to finally learn the self-sacrifice that marks a true hero.

Another entry in my Justice League Project -my re-imagining of Captain Marvel:

Active during the 1940s and 50s, Shazam was one of the worlds first true superheroes. When young Clark Kent goes public as Superman, this is where he gets his inspiration. Shazam (whom the media briefly dubbed “Captain Marvel, though the name didn’t stick), was powerful, colorful and a sort of living embodiment of the optimism of the time.

But very little is known about the man behind the legend.

This is because Billy Batson laid a lot of the groundwork for what it means to be a superhero, and that included a jealously guarded secret identity. As a young boy he was, under mysterious circumstances, granted a magic word that, when spoken, would imbue him with magnificent powers and a preternatural adult body.

Toward the latter half of the 1950s sightings of Shazam became fewer, and then dropped off altogether.

At the time of the forming of the Justice League, William “Billy” Batson is in his 80s and living a bitter, reclusive life in a private estate, along with his sister, Mary. But Batson has been watching the rise of these new Superheroes with great interest, and he thinks, perhaps, when the heroes reach their darkest hour, he may speak his magic word again.

If Shazam was one of the world’s first superheroes, then Doctor Carrie Hall aka Hawk Girl, was one of the 20th centuries last great costumed adventurers.

Active during the 1930s, Hall became famous not only as a terrible distraction to the (mostly male) undergraduates of the Archeology department of Marshall College, but also as a globe-trotting treasure hunter and “liberator” of rare and valuable historical artifacts. Armed with the “usual tools of the trade" as well as a pair of unique gliding wings, National Geographic dubbed her “Hawk Girl: the Tomb Raider.”

Her wing technology has never been duplicated, leading some to believe that there was more than science involved in her flight.

Hawk Girl disappeared somewhere in Egypt at the eve of the second World War. Her fate remains a mystery.

Zatanna is a simple girl.

It’s the world of magic that’s complicated.

That’s the world she was dragged into when her father, a prominent illusionist and escape artist, died under very peculiar circumstances and left her the key to her legacy. (And it wasn’t a metaphorical key, it was an actual key. Made of bone). Zatanna hadn’t seen her father in years (she left about the time he started training that horrible Wayne boy) and she was practicing street illusions at the time, making just enough to scrape by.

Upon her father’s death, Zatanna learns that her mother, who died when she was very young, was a powerful enchantress. Zatanna also begins to unlock her own magical abilities, and as she does she learns that the magical underworld is dangerously out of balance.

As Zatanna grows in magic she begins working as a fixer for both law enforcement groups and organizations from the magical underworld. She battles rogue wizards, trolls, goblins and creatures of legend all in an effort to keep the magical word from bleeding into the mundane world. She carries a wand, and a gun, a rabbit and a big bag of tricks.

But things are getting increasingly chaotic. Dark things are stirring in the realms of magic...

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My main goals in redesigning Zatanna was to give her a look that leaned a little more toward street magic than stage magic, and to give her a physique that was something more than just “Wonder Woman in a top hat” which she tends to look like in the comics.

Admittedly, I haven’t read a lot of Zatanna stories, but I like the idea of a magician superheroine. I wanted to make her the Harry Dresden of the DCU, complete with all the complications that magic brings to personal life. I imagine her rabbit, Mr. Bun ( who I named after Susie Derkin’s rabbit in Calvin and Hobbes) would be a sort of magical guide for her, a bit like Bob the Skull for Dresden.

Billionaire inventor Lex Luthor, the man behind countless modern marvels, was languishing creatively and personally until the day the Kryptonians arrived. It was man's first contact with alien life and it leveled half of Metropolis. But it rekindled dormant fires and gave Lex a reason to start inventing again.

That reason was the protection of Earth.

And so, 6 months after the Metropolis Disaster, Lexosuit Mark I was ready for battle. Powered by Kryptonite Reactor and assisted by an artificial intelligence program called "Mercy," the Mark I was a marvel beyond compare. And when the remaining Kryptonian finally resurfaced, now using the unsettling name of "Superman," Lex Luthor donned his armor and became Earth's Mightiest Hero.

So this Lex Luthor concept doesn't really fit with the rest of my Justice League redesigns. It's inspired by the Movie Man of Steel which gave us a version of Superman that, if he were real, would be a frightening and terrible monstrosity. I left that movie thinking I'd love to see a heroic version of Lex Luthor that could go toe to toe with that Superman.

Here, then, is a character that is equal parts Lex Luthor and Tony Stark (with a little Metallo thrown in). If I were to see this story through to it's conclusion Luthor's Mark I suit wouldn't last long and he'd have to keep building more powerful suites until he exhausts his fortune and ends up with a Pacific Rim style Jaeger. Oh! and he and Bruce Wayne would be drift compatible.

5 comments:

GL Silverman said...

So awesome! I would love to read a kid-friendly JLA graphic novel by you. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. It certainly seems that Zita would make a great guardian of sector 2814 ;)

Anonymous said...

i love zatannas pet bunny!
35

TJR said...

This is so much better than DC's current revamp

Mikel Midnight said...

I love both your elegant art style, and the thought processes which went into each one ... trying to find the intrinsic core of the characters but at the same time not being afraid to mess around with them conceptually.

Ben Hatke said...

Thanks Mikel and all.

I was just looking through these again and thinking that it really would be fun to do a series... we'll see.