Everyone loves themed posts, right? Hello? Anybody? Well, guess what? This is a themed post so I guess we all just have to live with it. Hopefully, you’ll be amused. To kick things off, I’d like to present the first installment of:
Here, I will periodically take a gander at a character (or group of characters) that I think deserves a bit of love and attention. To get started in the right way, I figure we should take a look at a team of knuckleheads whose pointless exploits were barely even recorded.
A team of international heroes-turned-brainwashed-slaves that I definitely sank some money into following through the back issue bins: The Global Guardians.
Let’s call it like it is: diversity has not always been the strongest suit of the major publishers. DC and Marvel have struggled with positive representation in the past. Nowadays, both of the giants seem to be making up for lost time by diversifying and shaking up the status quo. I, for one, am all for a reality where comic books feature characters as diverse as the crowd that reads them.
While recent years have seen Thor as a woman, Ms. Marvel as a Pakistani Muslim and Alan Scott as gay, it is important to remember the previous reaches for diversity that have come up over the years. Some of these attempts were pushed so hard that they actually wound up being more offensive than not. One day we will take a look at the glorious train wreck that is the DC 1980’s New Guardians title but, alas, today we are here to talk about a different diverse team with the name “Guardians” in it.
Children of the 70’s and 80’s (and other decades, to be fair) are familiar with the television cartoon Super Friends and the exploits of popular favorites like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. DC Comics, perhaps realizing how vanilla it all was, made an attempt to show non-white faces. Unfortunately, since white creators didn’t seem to understand that people of color were more than their race, the black hero was, of course, named Black Vulcan. Add Apache Chief and Samurai to the mix and you get a half-assed attempt to showcase the whole of humanity by displaying heroes with names that reduce them to their race. Hooray!
Super Friends also had a comic book, course. Since the team was, in essence, the same lineup as the Justice League of America, DC decided that the adventures of the Super Friends happened in another continuity entirely.
While Black Vulcan and co. did not appear, there is no need to fear. You can bet that there was a whole new slew of international heroes to pop up in these pages. And you can be sure that these heroes all had names that reduced them to a fact about their country of origin. Rising Sun is the champion from Japan. Ice Maiden hails from Norway. Godiva is from merry ol’ England. You get the picture. And, if you don’t, here’s a picture:
Their powers were also questionable. Tuatara has a third eye that can see the future sort of. Olympian wears The Golden Fleece and has all the abilities of Jason’s Argonauts. Little Mermaid can… swim.
These… bright and shining stars… came into play during an arc where members of the Justice L— err, uh, the Super Friends needed to split up to diffuse bombs around the world. Classic. Pairing with these international do-gooders, the day was saved. Technically, these heroes were not an actual team while running around chasing bombs in the pages of Super Friends. After popping up here and there for no real reason, DC added the group to the regular DCU continuity (for whatever that’s worth) and it was decided that this worldwide network of heroes was, in fact, an organized team known as The Global Guardians. Who’s Who (the definitive guide to the DCU!) even gave them an official entry with this lineup:
They even got (something) of an origin story! The mysterious Dr. Mist brought them together, the United Nations sanctioned the team, and they all worked out of a spot called The Dome somewhere in Europe. Of course, their adventures were never really recorded and the team was rarely seen as one unit.
A handful of the GG popped up to help Superman in DC Comics Presents (because every mothereffing hero teams up with Superman at some point) and another small group worked with the team Infinity Inc on some inconsequential matter. There was also a bit of confusion about members. Teen Titans ally, and resident Russian in the DCU, Red Star (natch) was listed as a member but never appeared with the team. Damn Commies. A French hero named Fleur de Lis also is shown in a few group shots and has one solo adventure but she’s also never brought up again after one or two brief moments in the sun. Who cares, y’know? The Global Guardians got to pop up during Crisis on Infinite Earths and even survived the cataclysmic retcons that were to follow.
So, the post-Crisis timeline is upon the DCU and the ball is rolling for these guys. Some appearances here, some there. Then, wouldn’t you know it, they all got fired. Once the Justice League International came on the scene, the United Nations said “Peace!” to the Guardians and they were out of a job.
Keep in mind, the Justice League at this time was no longer comprised of the big guns like Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman was around for a bit and Martian Manhunter kept vigil, but this was the era of the goofy and fun JLI (my favorite run). This means that the Global Guardians got kicked out of a comfy spot working with the United Nations by a team of second and third string heroes who wound up causing more harm than good to property and people alike. Rough break.
Two members of the Global Guardians, Green Fury and Ice Maiden, upon learning they are out of work, decide to apply for membership with the JLI. The ladies needed income so that they could shop til they drop (remember, this was the 80’s). These two would go on to become the most famous members of the Global Guardians and shorten their names because, hey, it works. Hello, Fire and Ice.
After the UN was all “GTFO,” the team actually got more attention in stories around the DCU. A little bit of meat (a very little bit) was added to some of the characters. Jack O’Lantern (of Ireland, natch) decided to take matters into his own hands and find a future for the ragtag globetrotting heroes.
During the runs of Justice League International, Justice League Europe and Justice League Quarterly (man, the late 80’s and early 90’s really were a great time to be a fan of the Justice League, I tell you that) the Global Guardians would come into play during various storylines and a few of the members started to develop actual personalities.
Jack O’Lantern turned out to be really bad at making decisions and started working for a crazy little dictator in the imaginary country of Bialya (somewhere in the Middle East, obvi) where he dragged his sweetheart Owlwoman into the mix and they tangled with the Justice League. Owlwoman was also molded into a peculiar Lady Deathstrike/Wolverine knockoff and genetically mutated by the dictator to have crazy retractable claws.
Luckily, the dictator got killed and overthrown by the Queen Bee, an even worse dictator. Yay! Jack O’Lantern then gets himself killed by Queen Bee and he’s replaced by a lookalike Jack O’Lantern because, hey this is a comic book, who then kidnaps and brainwashes the rest of the Global Guardians to serve as the Queen’s slaves and whatnot. Oh, Mr. O’Lantern.
Another character to get some attention was the Little Mermaid. Representing Denmark, LM is kind of useless. She’s one part legged person and one part mermaid and she can transform her legs into fins and breathe underwater. Well, she can breathe underwater for 30 hours at a time. So, after that she would die like anyone else. She can also fly but not really… she can hover a little bit. She’s, essentially, useless. Regardless, Little Mermaid was established as sweet but powerful in her spirit. She was the only Global Guardian to resist the brainwashing of the Queen Bee, until they upped her dosage and she fell into line.
She was definitely the Kitty Pryde of the Global Guardians in personality. Sadly, her head got blown off by Mr. Impostor Jack O’Lantern, who was trying to blast at Justice Leaguer Captain Atom.
Jack got his, though, because he was killed by falling debris pretty much right after Little Mermaid’s bloody demise. Their deaths revealed that he was an impostor, and made the GG realize they were pawns in someone else’s game. Self-actualization is the worst.
It is worth mentioning that, in true comic fashion, Little Mermaid turned up once again, alive and well. The Flash, of course, pointed out that she was supposed to be dead:
Outside of impostor O’Lanterns and decapitated mermaids, my favorite bit of GG development, for personal reasons, was learning Tasmanian Devil was gay. Quite gay, depending on the depiction:
Sadly, Tas is a character of wasted potential. Outside of Fire and Ice, it is the Tasmanian Devil that has had the most exposure in the DCU. He sort of distanced himself from the team for a bit during their “Brainwashed in Bialya!” days and, eventually, landed his own spot on the Justice League. Even while on the Justice League he did not get any interesting stories or development and faded back into obscurity without many complaints from fans. Eventually he showed up again so that he could be killed and turned into a bearskin rug, only to be brought back to life so that he could be underutilized once more.
But I digress. For the rest of the GG, life really does not get much better. Once the team beats all of their brainwashing they are relegated to “background characters who pop up for special events.” When they finally appear for the final issue of Justice League Quarterly, it pretty much is as a “bye bye” storyline.This issue, to me, is a great example of how comics were changing during the 90’s. I grew up reading comics in the 90’s and I hated the trend of bulky, macho, dark, brooding and “real” heroes. It was and is so lame to me.
The first few pages do the “bold” thing of killing off Bushmaster, crippling Impala and burning off all of Godiva’s hair (her power is having, uh, prehensile hair… so that move kind of also crippled her). This was all to highlight how “badass” this new villain was. Keep in mind, this villain is never heard of before or after this issue, so really all these characters suffered for a dude that didn’t wind up amounting to anything. I, like many comic fans, hate the tired trope of killing characters for the sake of showing how “scary” a new villain is. Seriously, it is just a sign of really lazy writing.
And it does not end there. Before the end of the story, Thunderlord dies in battle, Tuatara is put in a coma and The Wild Huntsman is.. sort of… made to vanish? It never is quite clear what happens to him (or his dog and horse that always kept him company). In an attempt to tie up any of the complicated continuity issues the team was prone to, it was established that Little Mermaid and Jack O’Lantern (the first one, not the murdery impostor) were both, in fact, actually and truly deceased. R.I.P., dudes.
Total Global Guardians Body Count:
- Deceased: Dr. Mist (kind of), Bushmaster, Thunderlord, Jack O’Lantern (I & II), Little Mermaid, Wild Huntsman (also, kind of)
- Critically Wounded: Godiva, Impala, Tuatara
Pretty sad numbers for a team that started off so colorful and poorly named.
The final Global Guardians story makes the attempt to end on a positive note. Owlwoman proposes to the surviving members (all four of them) that they add some new blood. She shows images of these potential new members (who also never appear in anything else except for a cameo or two) and the team tosses up their hands to celebrate their future. Spoiler alert: they have no future. The End.
And that kind of is the end of their story. Though the last official Global Guardians tale took place in 1994, the team has had something of a legacy in the DCU. A few of the members (including, for some reason, a twice-resurrected Little Mermaid) joined up with another underused international team The Ultramarine Corps.
A second and ill-conceived Global Guardians team popped up in Green Lantern in 2006, with only Tasmanian Devil returning from the original lineup. These guys don’t last long either and are all killed within a few years in another “look how bad this bad guy is” moment.
Oh, and Godiva (with all her hair attached) got the spotlight when DC pulled the ol’ “time to restart everything” move and relaunched Justice League International as part of The New 52. Though, now that The New 52 isn’t a thing anymore, who knows what her status is… or anyone’s for that matter.
I have absolutely no clue in the universe why I love this team so much. Forgettable characters with barely any personality or development, cringeworthy names and subpar powers…. I mean what’s NOT to love?
Perhaps, if I ever somehow wind up writing for comics (note to self, make that a goal) I will get a chance to tackle these characters and see what makes them tick. Honestly, these clumsily named sons of bitches deserve to have their stories told. And I’m the idiot to do it.
And that’s who the %*@$ The Global Guardians are.