In the 80s DC came up with their own answer to Marvel’s “Official Handbook” called Who’s Who. It was the same deal, profiles of the DC heroes, villains, supporting casts, and other related concepts native to the DC Universe. Both Marvel and DC created a version in the 90s that you could tear out and put in a three-ring binder, my theory being it would be easy to update. Now we have fan wikis for that.
In the late 90s someone at DC Comics had the idea of creating a series of special comics called Secret Files & Origins. The books contained a few short stories about the subject, character profiles in the Who’s Who style, and other content. Tonight we look at the first one that I have in order, with a focus on the Justice League, or the JLA comic at the time helmed by Grant Morrison. The book features three stories and a bunch of extras. So let’s see what we have to work with.
JLA: Secret Files
DC Comics (September 1997)
Each story has it’s own writing and art team, although Mark Millar seems to be the primary writer, with Grant Morrison working with him on the first story and Phil Jimenez writing a JLA Timeline. Jimenez also channels George Perez (who was still alive so that’s a feat) in doing posters of every DC hero who had been part of the Justice League post-Crisis before Morrison decided to limit the membership.
Secret Origins: “Star-Seed”
(WRITERS: Grant Morrison & Mark Millar| PENCILER: Howard Porter|INKER: John Dell| COLORIST: John Kalisz|LETTERER: Ken Lopez)
The story opens with The Flash (Wally West) being called to Blue Valley because an alien ship is embedded in the top floor of a skyscraper. The thing looks and later acts like Starro but it’s green instead of purple and his spores only somewhat resemble starfish. Also for some reason Flash appears to be talking to Officer Stan Lee. The Flash goes in to investigate…although a later comic will prove that Starro isn’t new to the post-Crisis DCU (unless JLA Year One took place in the pre-Crisis continuity) so it’s not like Wally should have been surprised. Then he gets a face full of spores, one of them clinging to his face.
The Justice League, or what’s left of it since apparently the UN has a right to kick everyone out of the Satellite…which actually brings up a continuity error given that Metamorpho comic-died after these events trying to save his friends from the satellite crashing as the Hyperclan attacked. Okay, let me start over. The League (roll call: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Aquaman) were listening the whole time as well as the probe’s rant that they would all soon be conquered. Batman is surprisingly harsh even for Batman when talking about the other heroes kicked out of the League but he doesn’t like the idea that Blue Valley will be nuked to stop Starroesque. At least that’s what the Spectre tells the heroes, warning them not to get involved and giving them a vision of the spores taking them over and using them to conquer Earth and even going back in time to take over the Kryptonians (when there still were Kryptonians) because it hates the thought that there’s a mind not under his control. Starroesque even uses that “only use 10% of our brains” bullcrap because it thinks that 90% exists to allow him to control them.
So the League decides to give up their powers so they can help Batman stop the not-Starros. (Suck it, JLA: Act Of God!) The plan is to fake still having their powers but one of them sees Superman sweating and somehow realizes he doesn’t have his powers. If Total Recall taught us anything it’s to have a good antiperspirant when it comes to subterfuge. And use it on your forehead. While the depowered heroes deal with the controlled Batman makes it to the probe’s computer and rigs the air conditioner in the room it merged inside of to minus ten to freeze the room. He’s also able to reach Wally, who destroys the computer, freeing everyone from the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Starros, and Spectre gives them their powers back. I kind of like the story. It shows that it isn’t the powers that make them heroes. But there is the aforementioned continuity problems and I still don’t like that they limited the Justice League during this time. I like it better as a large superhero team.
[WRITER: Mark Millar|ARTIST: Don Hillsman|COLORIST: Tom McCraw|LETTERER: Albert DeGuzman]
For some reason everything else was written by Mark Millar, with the exception of the timeline by Jimenez, and I’m not sure why. Was Millar taking over the title? As for this story Superman believes he should apply to the League the same as everyone else now that he has all new electricity powers. This takes place just before the Tomorrow Woman story and it’s really just an excuse to go over Superman’s new powers during his “blue electric” period.
Martian Manhunter: “A Day In the Life”
[WRITER: Mark Millar|ARTIST: Don Hillsman|COLORIST Tom McCraw|LETTERER: Albert DeGuzman]
Millar puts quite a bit of focus on J’onn as there’s also an “interview” with him later in the book. Since he is probably the least well-known of the DC heroes in this version of the Justice League despite being a founding member of the original Justice League Of America team (he wouldn’t make his first post-comics appearance that I know of until the Justice League cartoons not counting that thankfully failed live-action pilot from the 1990s) I guess I understand it. The story follows Martian Manhunter through his day, showcasing how he covers areas that don’t have their own superheroes, the various identities he takes to better understand humanity, and stopping a protesting terrorist but at least agreeing with the reason why but tries to come up with a better solution that satisfies everyone. I rather liked it.
The book also includes profiles on the seven JLA members in this incarnations and ones to come, like Green Arrow (Connor Hawke), Zauriel (a rather un-Biblical interpretation of Heaven, which is why I stopped collecting the comic), and Aztek, as well as profiles of upcoming villains at the time The Key, the “Lord Of Time” (no relation), and the new Injustice Gang, the anti-Justice League. I’m not sure I agree with Millar’s interpretation of Superman but I do like his reasoning for his friendship with Batman.
Overall this was a good book to go along with the JLA comic at the time. The stories are fine but of course the character profiles are outdated. Still it’s worth getting if you were following this incarnation. And in the future we’ll be seeing more of these Secret Files comics, which will be explored in future installments of Scanning My Collection.