Justice League Interchangable

Months ago, DC released the first image of Ed Benes’ take on the Justice League of America.

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Last Wednesday, Justice League of America #1 hit comic shops. The image we had all come to love was split down the middle (because DC knew they could milk another $4 out of some of us), but that wasn’t the only change.

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The cover was different. Several characters were swapped around, and others were removed all together. Makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

A lot of changes make sense. The front row is all characters who made the final roster, so it makes sense that DC wouldn’t want to give it away months in advance. That explains why Black Lightning and John Stewart traded places, and why Flash and Red Tornado are swapped. Also, Arsenal (I so want to start calling him Red Arrow now) replaces Green Arrow on the front line, moving Green Arrow up beside Flash, replacing The Elongated Man.

That’s when things start to get a little trickier. Ralph Dibny, along with every other hero who’s a starring member of the 52 cast, has been removed from the original image. Booster Gold’s been replaced with Big Barda, The Question’s been replaced by Martian Manhunter (conspicuous by his abscence in the original image), Adam Strange has been replaced by Hourman, and Animal Man’s been replaced by Batwoman. With Booster Gold already dead, perhaps we’re to assume that no one starring in 52 makes it out alive?

One guy, just to the left of the right flag, above Blue Beetle’s shoulder (Karate Kid? Bushido? Obscure Ninja Hero? Help me out here) is simply taken out. He isn’t replaced, and he isn’t shuffled around to another part of the image, he’s just not there anymore, and there’s a hole where he used to be. There’s also a hole where Guy Gardner used to be, after he moved up to replace Aquaman on the far left. Quite frankly, leaving those two spots empty throws off the composition a bit. Would it really have been hard to throw in Wildcat or Jay Garrick or Manhunter or any other hero to balance it out a little?

There’s also a few updates of character visuals for Kyle Rayner (now Ion, then just Green Lantern), Fire (now all flamy, then not so much) and Metamorpho (now Metamorpho, then Shift). Curiously, Captain Atom was not updated to coincide with the armor he began wearing at the end of Battle For Bludhaven. Even curiouser, Atom’s certainly not the type of guy the JLA would want hanging around after he destroyed Bludhaven.

The most puzzling aspect is that Nightwing was absent from the original piece, but he replaced Arsenal on the top row in the final cover. Perhaps this lends even more credence to the idea that Nightwing was originally intended to die during Infinite Crisis.

Ed Benes obviously drew the original cover well before the end of Infinite Crisis, and it’s clear DC didn’t let him in on every change they were going to make One Year Later. That would explain why he put Aquaman and Tempest in the original drawing yet they didn’t make it on the final image (they’re both MIA OYL). It explains why there’a a non-Ionized Kyle Rayner and a Shift-y Metamorpho.

But they obviously let him in on some stuff. The new Blue Beetle is on display in the original cover. Green Arrow is sporting his OYL hood. And Nightwing is nowhere to be seen. If characters like Donna Troy, Arsenal and Cyborg were all included in the original image, why would Nightwing be left out? Because he was supposed to be dead OYL?

If only I cared as much about the new JLA roster as I do about these tiny changes. You’d think with ten superfolks on the team, there’d be some I actually be interested in. Seriously…Vixen?!