The Avengers Make Fun of Justice League Detroit

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack's term) "meta-messages." A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I'll give you the context behind one such "meta-message."

Today, as suggested by reader Greg P., we take a look at a little joke that Roger Stern made at the expense of the so-called "Justice League Detroit" in an issue of the Avengers.

To set things up, let's refresh on what, exactly, WAS "Justice League Detroit"?

You see, in 1984, after being the writer on Justice League of America for a number of years, Gerry Conway wanted to mix things up. He wanted the series to be more like the other popular team books in comics at the time, specifically New Teen Titans and Uncanny X-Men. He thought, besides some diversity, one of the biggest things was that stuff could actually HAPPEN in those titles. You could have romances, you could have all sorts of other soap opera-type stuff, but most importantly, there was a real forward momentum in those series. In the Justice League, everyone knows that nothing major in the life of Superman is going to happen in the pages of Justice League of America.

So Conway (and artist Chuck Patton) introduced a bunch of new characters and had the Justice League be reborn with characters who were not appearing in their own series, giving Conway freedom to do whatever he wanted with the characters. In the comic itself, it was explained that Aquaman got sick of having the rest of the League treat the League as the side gig to their MAIN superhero gig, which is defending their respective cities. So he wanted a team made up of heroes who could fully dedicate themselves to just being members of the League. Amusingly enough, Aquaman then got his own series and had to quit the team shortly after forming it.

Meanwhile, the Justice League's headquarters had just been destroyed. So one of their new members, Steel, offered up the use of a bunker in Detroit built by his grandfather (who really wanted Steel to join the team) as their new base. While there, they met two Detroit residents who joined the team (Vibe and Gypsy).

Since the team was pretty much intentionally second-rate, the book was teased a lot at the time (not to mention how some folks found Vibe, in particular, a bit too stereotypical). Instead of calling them the Justice League of America, they began to be referred to derisively as "Justice League Detroit."

Conway left the series fairly abruptly after a couple of years and new writer J.M. DeMatteis finished out the original Justice League of America volume in early 1987 with a storyline where Vibe and Steel are killed and Gypsy moves back home. The League is finished and then gets rebooted in the Kieth Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis series that morphed into Justice League International.

Okay, so back in 1985, while Justice League Detroit had been around for about a year, the Avengers had a storyline where the team got into hot water with the American government. The FAA had decided that it was too dangerous for the Avengers to be launching Quinjets from the middle of Manhattan, so the Avengers had to find a new place to use as a launching pad. Eventually, the answer was Hydrobase, a floating manmade island just nine miles off of the coast of Manhattan that the aquatic superhero, Stingray, owned.

Before that time, though, the Avengers sorted through offers from various towns, most of which thought that the Avengers planned on moving the entire team's operations, not just their quinjets. So towns and cities were hoping to have the Avengers set up shop in their homes.

One of those cities was, of course, Detroit and Captain Marvel quickly dismissed the idea, which was clearly a jibe at Justice League Detroit by Stern...

Thanks to Greg for the suggestion! If anyone else has a suggestion for a good Meta-Message, please drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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