Why the Justice League Added Its Dumbest Rule - and When

Today, we look at the retroactive introduction of one of the Justice League of America's dumbest rules and why it was introduced and why it nearly tore the Justice League apart!

This is "Always Kind of Wondered," a feature spotlighting instances from comics where a comic book writer has clearly said, "Hey, why doesn't Character X ever do Action Y?" The sort of things that typically occur when comic book fans grow up to become comic book writers, which wasn't really a thing until the mid-1960s.

Reader Dave B. wrote in to suggest that I discuss this one, and he specifically was looking for the first mention of this rule, so this probably should just be a "When We First Met," but upon reading more about it, I think it seemed to be more a case of "Always Kind of Wondered," because the introduction of this rule was clearly designed to specifically address some concerns that the writer who introduced the rule had with the history of the Justice League. So let's take a look!

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THE "SECOND GENERATION" OF COMIC BOOK WRITERS IS OBVIOUSLY A BROAD TERM

I frequently use the term "second generation" to describe the comic book writers who grew up reading comic books, as the first generation of comic book writers (your Bill Fingers, Gardner Foxes, Jerry Siegels, Stan Lees, Jack Kirbys, John Broomes, Edmond Hamiltons, Otto Binders, etc.) obviously didn't read comic books while growing up because there WERE no comic books until these creators CREATED them. However, it is important to note that, just like when people use terms like "Baby Boomer" or "Generation X," that said generations are obviously fairly broad terms and that there is typically a significant difference between those generations. For instance, a Steve Ditko would probably be considered a "first generation" comic book creator, but by virtue of being younger than those other people, he DID grow up influenced by the very early days of the comic book industry, but only those very earliest days.

Similarly, Roy Thomas is probably one of the most famous members of the second generation of comic book writers, but he was also a good seven-eight years older than most of the other members of that group of writers. Seven-eight years is not a big deal overall, but when it comes to pop culture, that can basically put you in a whole other reference point than other people. What it means, more specifically, is that Thomas was old enough that he was able to get into comics at the tail end of the Golden Age (Thomas was born in 1940) while guys like Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart all could not. As a result, Thomas was a lot more influenced by DC Comics than the others, as they all became teenagers when Marvel Comics burst on to the scene, while Thomas was already an established fan writer at the time (Thomas already was part of the launch of the popular fanzine, Alter Ego, before Fantastic Four #1 ever came out).

I mention this because Steve Englehart, in particular, had a very Roy Thomas-like love for continuity in his early work, but it tended to be specifically about the continuity of early Marvel comics that Englehart grew up reading. Comics older than that would ALSO be explored by Englehart in his work, but it would typically be from the perspective of a modern writer looking back and reacting to things he found curious about the older works (for instance, Englehart famously introduced Patsy Walker into the pages of his Beast feature in Amazing Adventures and he would use the space to sort of have fun with those early Patsy Walker stories). This all came into play when Englehart left Marvel in the mid-1970s for a brief but memorable run at DC Comics where he reflected on issues he had with the Justice League, including the introduction of one of the Justice League's dumbest rules to point out some problems Englehart had with the team's roster.

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THE JUSTICE LEAGUE'S DUMBEST RULE MADE ITS DEBUT

When Englehart took over writing Justice League of America, he noticed that Hawkgirl had routinely shown up in Justice League issues helping out her husband, Hawkman, but while he had joined the team all the way back in Justice League of America #31 (by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs)...

She had never joined the team. So in Justice League of America #145 (by Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin), she tells Black Canary that she wants to join the team...

Englehart then introduces a "No Duplicate Power" rule for the first time as a reason for why Hawkgirl was never allowed to join the team (I've written a few times about the Legion of Super-Heroes' similar retroactive rule, which was introduced four years before this issue of Justice League of America)...

Englehart also points out the male-female disparity on the team and cleverly has Black Canary wonder whether she would have ever been allowed to join had the League not happened to have been without Wonder Woman when she joined.

So in the next issue, Hawkman decides to push the issue and insist that Hawkgirl join the team and Superman is oddly hardhearted about the idea...

A weird thing to draw a line in the sand about, Superman!

We then see Superman complain about the idea to his bros, but he gets push back from both Batman and Green Arrow...

Hawkgirl actually ALSO gives Hawkman some grief, but only because she thinks that the timing was bad, but he explains why he will always stand up for her and wants to get rid of any dumb tradition that would keep them apart...

And at the end of the issue, the rule is officially scrapped and Hawkgirl joins the team...

It doesn't really explain why Batgirl and Supergirl weren't then just added to the team, right?

Interestingly, had Englehart been a more devoted Justice League of America reader, he would have known that the real in-story reason for Hawkman on the team and no Hawkgirl was due to the Justice League's earlier also oddly strict rule about only adding one new member a year...

As you can see, Hawgirl was nominally okay with the idea at the time (but Fox also showed Hawkgirl wishing she could join the team in Justice League of America #53...

It'd be pretty funny if the other members were just jerks and no one ever voted to add her to the team when they decided on new members).

Thanks for the suggestion, Dave! Everyone else, feel free to suggest other instances of "Always Kind of Wondered" to me at [email protected]!

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About The Author
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Brian Cronin (15258 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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