email thomas









By Thomas Wheeler

One of the most highly-regarded stories in the original Justice League series -- before it took on the "Unlimited" suffix, was certainly the one where an alternate-universe Justice League came to "our" universe to try to set what they perceived was a better and more effective example.

This team, known as the Justice Lords, were vicious, tyrannical, and unapologetic. They dealt with villains and any sort of insurrection quickly and decisively. Basically, in their universe, they'd taken over the world.

What was especially intriguing about them, from a visual standpoint, at least, were the costume designs. They were, in every instance, dramatically different from the costumes that we were familiar with. Superman was dressed in black, with a white cape. Wonder Woman wore a full body suit in red. Even Batman's costume was different, and managed to look darker -- no easy feat for the Dark Knight.

Needless to say, the two-part storyline was well-received, and toy collectors who had been enjoying the then-rather-limited Justice League action figure line started screaming for Justice Lords figures.

Finally, we got some of them a while back. A three-pack came out as part of the Justice League Unlimited line, which was vastly expanded as far as character inclusion was concerned. For Mattel, it had to be something of a no-brainer. All they really had to do was repaint the existing figures, although Wonder Woman did need a new headsculpt, since her Justice Lords version had very short hair. The set, not surprisingly, included Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Most collectors probably figured that was about it. The likelihood of getting the rest of the team, which included Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter, seemed remote at best. Until this year's display of Justice League figures was showcased at the International Toy Fair. Indeed there would be a second set of Justice Lords figures, with Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and -- Flash!?

Okay, right there we need to hit the brakes, and start looking at these figures individually, and we really need to start with the Flash, because his presence in this set creates something of a continuity glitch as far as the storyline is concerned.

FLASH: In the original Justice Lords episodes, the Flash was dead. In fact, it had been the death of this generally happy-go-lucky character that had caused the alternate-universe's Justice League to gradually become the Justice Lords in the first place. The death of one of their own wasn't something they were prepared to handle very well, and it can certainly be argued that they took the direction that they did to make absolutely certain that nothing like that would ever happen again.

Technically, the sixth member of the Justice Lords was Hawkgirl. Why Mattel didn't do her in this set I'm not entirely certain, and I initially figured she'd never see the light of day. Mattel hasn't seemed quite as averse to doing female figures in this line as the average toy company might be. We've had Wonder Woman several times over, Black Canary, Dr. Light, Zatanna, Huntress, Green Lantern Katma Tui, Vixen, Hawkgirl several times including as Shayera, and young Supergirl (hopefully we get the blue-uniformed, more grown-up version before this line is done).

So why wasn't Hawkgirl included as part of this Justice Lords set? Was the uniform too different from the traditional Hawkgirl to justify the cost? Granted Flash is the more popular character, but concept-wise, it's a bit of a stretch to put him in here.

Now, that's not to say that we didn't see the Justice Lords version of the Flash one time in the animated series. In fact, we did. But it was during an episode where the Justice League were being subjected to a series of hallucinations, one of which included the Justice Lords, and included a really nasty Justice Lords Flash -- which in and of itself seemed out of character given what we knew of the alternate-universe Flash.

And, admittedly, this Justice Lords Flash does look just like that Flash in the animated series. So, on that basis, I'm prepared to accept the figure, even though I lament the fact that we'll probably never get a Justice Lords Hawkgirl at this point.

And here's an interesting observation about the Justice Lords Flash, especially for those of you who might not be as willing to accept the character -- he's dressed exactly like the Flash's classic adversary; Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. The costume is predominantly yellow, with red boots, red trim around the gloves, a red belt, and the lightning bolt symbol is red inside a black circle.

So, for those of you who aren't inclined to allow for a Justice Lords Flash -- here's your Professor Zoom - Reverse Flash figure!

Interestingly, the figure does not have the elbow and knee articulation that some Flash figures have had, and seems to be made from one of the "common body molds" that a great number of Justice League figures, painted however needed, are made from these days. But that's all right. it still works.

One very slight glitch on the figure. It looks like a tiny bit of blue plastic got into the mold. There's a little blue spot on one leg and one arm that's not paint. This can pretty much be chalked up to "Accidents happen", but one might still wish they paid closer attention.

There may be a few continuity problems from a story standpoint allowing for this character's presence in this set, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the figure, and it's a cool one.

GREEN LANTERN: I suspect that finding a costume design for the Justice Lords Green Lantern was not an especially easy thing to do. He still has to be a Green Lantern, and as a Green Lantern, he answers to an authority other than the Justice League. And one has to surmise that the legendary Guardians of the Universe are a little more liberal in the Justice Lords' universe, to let this John Stewart get away with being part of such a tyrannical group.

But one still has to do something with the costume, and what the animators (and then Mattel) did, pretty much, was to reverse the colors. The typical Green Lantern costume in the animated series consists of a mostly black costume, with a wide green collar, extending to the shoulders, and green wrist-bands and boots. The Green Lantern insignia is on the chest.

The Justice Lords Green Lantern has largely reversed this outfit, with a black collar and a mostly green uniform -- although it's a muted, almost military green, rather than the brighter green normally associated with the Lanterns. There is some of this green on the uniform -- the Lantern insignia, which instead of being set inside a white circle, is instead outlined in black. The costume has short sleeves, black wrist-bands, and black bands at the boot-tops.

This John Stewart has also shaved his head. For the first seasons of Justice League, the "real" John Stewart had hair -- albeit not a lot. When the series went to "Unlimited", Stewart had shaved his head, but grown a mustache and goatee. I've consistently likened this to what Avery Brooks did with his Benjamin Sisko character in Star Trek Deep Space Nine midway through the series. To what degree this was a deliberate tribute on the part of the producers of JLU I don't know. But the Justice Lords' Green Lantern has a bald head, without the facial hair.

John Stewart is a grim customer in either universe, but the Justice Lords' version came across as a good but more militaristic and generally nasty. Both Stewarts do have a military background, but clearly the Justice Lords' edition kept his more at the forefront of his personality.

The figure is well-made, with the darker green uniform, and it has the additional articulation of elbows, knees, and waist.

MARTIAN MANHUNTER: This one -- I don't know if it was easy for the animators to come up with an alternative design to Martian Manhunter as we know him, or quite difficult. The "real" Martian Manhunter doesn't have much of a costume. Seemingly in contrast to Kermit the Frog's song, "It's Not Easy Being Green", the Manhunter has never seemed to have many qualms about showing his green skin. His costume has tended to consist of blue trunks and boots, red straps criss-crossing his chest, and a blue cape. Maybe it makes his shape-changing ability a little easier, I don't really know. But honestly, what can you do with this with regard to coming up with a darker version for the Justice Lords?

Give him a black body-suit. And a bigger cape. And maybe make him seem just a little more alien than he already is, by making sure there's a stylized insignia of the planet Mars on the front of the cape. This Martian Manhunter isn't trying so hard to connect with humanity. He wants them to know he's an alien, and proud of it.

Clearly the Justice Lords Martian Manhunter figure is based on an existing Martian Manhunter figure. Much as with the Justice Lords Superman, some of the sculpted details come through eve, though they're not painted. The straps and trunks are still visible on the black body suit. Honestly, though, it's not that bad. It's certainly not as bad as Superman's diagonal boot tops showing through on his Justice Lords figure, even though the Justice Lords' Superman had an entirely different boot style.

The one new part made for this figure is clearly the cape. Much more expansive than a standard Martian Manhunter cape, it has a much high collar, hangs off the shoulders more, and has the aforementioned "Mars" insignia on the front of it. Overall, it's really a very impressive figure.

What's just a little unnerving about this is that, if you take a look at the Martian Manhunter as he's presented in a group shot towards the end of the comic book INFINITE CRISIS #7, he's wearing a costume that is very similar to his Justice Lords' incarnation, although it has red straps. As of this writing, a Martian Manhunter eight-issue limited series is going to be starting up, and one wonders of J'onn J'onzz is going to suddenly have a bit more attitude than we've been used to seeing from him. He doesn't appear to be part of the planned membership of the Justice League, as that title resumes (although JLA writer Brad Meltzer indicated that the Manhunter wasn't one of his favorite characters).

I'd like to say this about all three of these figures -- they're neatly painted. There's been a little bit of slipshod work on a few other figures in the line here and there, but it's been thankfully infrequent, and I have to say that I am especially pleased to note that all of the painted details on these figures have clearly been properly spray- painted through stencil-masks -- NOT inevitably sloppily hand-painted as has turned up on other companies' figure lines, much to their detriment.

I'd also like to mention that there wasn't any trouble standing any of these figures. I wouldn't've really expected any with Lantern and Manhunter, since their knees bend, but given past trouble in standing some of the non-knee-jointed figures, I was delighted to see Flash stand on his own with no trouble. I honestly didn't expect to see any more Justice Lords after the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman set, but now here they are, and they definitely have my highest recomendation!

I honestly didn't expect that a Justice Lords HAWKGIRL would ever be released, though. So imagine my surprise when I was shopping and I saw the Justice League Unlimited three-packs. And what looked like the first Justice Lords three-pack -- Superman, Batman, and -- hold it, THAT'S not Wonder Woman!

To be fair, they did have a few of the three-pack with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But they ALSO had a NEW three-pack, that consisted of slightly revised versions of Superman and Batman, and -- JUSTICE LORDS HAWKGIRL!

I hadn't even intended to buy anything that day. I quickly made an exception.

The figure is excellent. Clearly it uses a previous Hawkgirl mold, but that's okay. Not exactly the first time that's happened. The outfit is dramatically different from "our" Hawkgirl. The Hawkgirl we know actually wears a pretty colorful outfit, with red, green, and yellow all mixed together, along with a rather ornate bird-like helmet with what look like fanned out "wings" around the eyes.

The Justice Lords Hawkgirl is a lot more subdued, and may be the greatest design departure from her original version of any of them. That's the other reason I'm a little surprised we even got this figure. She wears a black bodysuit with dark gold trim, and a far less ornate helmet that is clearly more "battle-ready" than the fancier version. About the only thing that's the same is the wings. This is not an especially colorful figure. It is, however, a very good match for the animated character.

One other thing sincerely surprised me -- she's able to stand up on her own. She does come with a display base, the same transparent DC-logo base that Green Lantern Katma Tui came with, and I really figured she'd need it. I didn't expect Hawkgirl to be able to stand up by herself on those tiny feet and with those huge wings making her back-heavy. Now, she DOES have to lean forward a little more than really "looks good", so you might want to use the display base anyway, but it is possible to stand the figure on her own without the base.

I also believe this set to be a Toys "R" Us exclusive. Even if I hadn't received confirmation of that since purchasing the set, there were indicators. This set was certainly not on display at Toy Fair, it's not pictured on the package back, which lists other recent sets, including the other Justice Lords set, and the designation in Toys "R" Us' computer system is slightly different. Where most of them simply say "JLU 3-PK SET" or some such, this one reads "JLU 3-PK SET TRU". It was also a dollar less. Awfully nice of them to do that for an exclusive.

As for the Batman and Superman figures in the set, they're a little pointless. Oh, they're decent figures, don't get me wrong. But it's still possible, if not all that easy, to find the first three-pack that includes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and it's the preferable way to go. The Superman and Batman figures in this three-pack have a sort of "printed circuitry" design around their shoulders, that I've seen before on a few other Justice League figures. It doesn't look bad, but it's sort of pointless, especially on these two. But I guess they had to throw someone else into the set.

And the set IS worth it just for Hawkgirl alone, especially for those that really enjoyed that particular two-parter. It IS now possible to have the complete Justice Lords team! As for the oddball Flash, you can either assume him to be the seventh Justice Lords member, or figure him for being the Reverse Flash character, Professor Zoom.

Let me also congratulate Mattel for being willing to do this set. It wasn't that long ago that Mattel wasn't exactly known for action figures. Their top products were Barbie and Hot Wheels. They probably still are. They'd had maybe three major action figure series in three decades -- Major Matt Mason in the 60's, Big Jim in the 70's, and Masters of the Universe in the 80's. But in more recent years, they've really stepped up to the plate, between the sadly short-lived Masters revival a few years ago, to their current DC Comics based products. And honestly, in some regards, they're doing a better job than some companies with a longer and otherwise more impressive history in action figures. Certainly I have far fewer quality complaints with Mattel's products.

And finally, THANK YOU, Mattel and Toys "R" Us, for completing the Justice Lords! This Justice League Unlimited three-pack has my highest recommendation, as does the other one!