Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Realworlds: Justice League of America

Realworlds: Justice League of America

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 24, 2000

Cover date: July 2000

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: G.L. Barr

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Open on Evanston Illinois, October 1999.

Michael Riley returns home from a long day of whatever desiring only to eat far too much take out food, watch some Nick at Night, and waste some time on the internet. Upon checking his inbox, however, he is startled to read an invitation to a Halloween Party being hosted by the self proclaimed "disgustingly wealthy (and extraordinarily humble) computer mogul Bernard Epstein". PS, he notes in his letter casually, look in the box, Michael! So Michael turns, to note a box with a Jack-O-Lantern symbol on it. He reaches inside, only to find a Superman costume, which sends him into gouts of hysterics.

Cut back to a Chicago summer in 1975. Memory:
A group of children, Michael included, parade about in shoddy, obviously self made Justice League of America costumes. They create adventures as they go, stretching along the adventures of their troupe: Superman, Batman, Elastic Man, and Wonder Woman.

Back to present.
Nick DiMarco delivers very, very bad stand-up comedy laced with memories of childhood. Obviously beaten down by life and exhausted, he collapses on stage only to wake up, fired. Formerly famous, he is describes as having had a bit part in a sitcom which he was eventually fired from and replaced, three years ago. Despondent at his lack of employment, he goes home to find a box sitting on his bed, with, you guessed it, a costume. Elastic Man.

More make-believe. This time, Superman is caught in a kryptonite beam. Wonder Woman leaps to the rescue, ripping the beam apart with her bare hands. The action carries on, until off in the distance Ricky, formerly Batman, stands smoking a cigarette, blowing out very mature rings. They stand in awe.

Richard (Ricky) Barrison is a producer for a cut-rate science fiction show, "Captain Starrior". A writer sits in his office, explaining his proposals for Captain Starrior shows. Ricky rejects them, blowing smoke in the poor guy's face and calling him essentially the worst writer ever to walk the earth. He makes five million dollars a year and dates a Victoria's Secret model. His secretary drops in and delivers a box with a pumpkin on it and a Batman costume.

Ricky plays too cool to be Batman anymore, but eventually extinguishes his cigarette and relents, allowing himself one more summer.

Michael Reilly (now spelled Reilly (?)) relaxes in Epstein's private jet, preparing for take-off to rendezvous for the mysterious Halloween party. A "stewardess" walks over, and Mike starts to chat it up, asking about the service. Instead, she throws him back in his seat and leaps on him, a beautiful, sensual woman with a body to die for. It's Karen, the former tomboy known as Wonder Woman.

Bernard Epstein, sixth wealthiest man in the world, master of the internet, and disgusting human being, according to magazines, laughs in his private office observatory and slips into a Despero costume, cackling.

Now in Epstein Tower, Mike and Karen discuss her past. They dress in their costumes, as per demand of the invitation...they must remain in costume for the entire time they are in attendance. Karen reveals that, though self described as a "dog" when younger, she worked her way up the educational ladder to make six hundred thousand dollars a year before using plastic surgery to replace her ugliness with the sex pot standing in front of Superman, looking lovely and apparently, seductive. She leaps upon Superman and innuendoes a request for sex into a segue.

Superman is drinking alone, later, in the bar, when Elastic Man happens upon him and reminds him that Superman doesn't drink. Batman enters, as does Wonder Woman, and all are finally reunited after nearly twenty five years.

A waitress dressed as Zatanna gathers the happy people together for a picture, snaps one, and poof, the lights go out. When the lights come back up, Zatanna is gone, but a Despero head cookie jar remains, with a note. It says that Green Lantern will contact them tomorrow with their quest, tomorrow being Halloween. Wonder Woman heads off to Superman's room, and Elastic Man, beat, returns to his room as well. Ricky and Mike attempt to catch up, but Ricky decides to hit on Zatanna and Superman has a warm bed waiting upstairs in Wonder Woman. Early in the morning, all are awakened by Green Lantern, an old man with a green flashlight. In actuality, it is Bernard's butler. He rousts them, Superman included, buck naked from the night previous. All share a laugh. They leave, with Green Lantern driving. Halfway across town, the car breaks down. The chauffeur gets out, as do the JLA, and they examine the vehicle. Green Lantern says he'll call for help. (Doesn't Batman have OnStar these days?) Instead, he takes off for parts unknown, leaving the JLA stranded in the cold and unforgiving Big City. A punk notes the costumes, comes over, and pops Supes in the stomach, wanting to see if he was really invulnerable. Turns out he wasn't. Neither side, for some reason, really makes anything of it. Another kid pats Wonder Woman on the butt, and she kicks him.

A poster reveals the World of Heroes restaurant opening. Batman takes it as a clue, and they all agree to walk across town to examine the evidence. They come across a man and a woman arguing on the street. The man threatens to hit the woman. Batman steps in, chastising the guy. The woman pops him in the head. Again, nothing is made of it, and the group walks on.

When inside the World of Heroes, lights low turn high, and four trained actors tell the heroes to follow the trail of stars. Outside again, stars have been spray painted on the sidewalk. They follow them, and Despero watches from above using video cameras.

There are two paths, so they split into teams. Superman and Elastic Man, Wonder Woman and Batman. Petty arguing about the past separate them, and trained thugs herd them into the belly of a dragon.

The dragon stops, they are released, and a helicopter descends, with Despero stepping out and calling them all his slaves. Abruptly, the game ends. Despero, Bernard Epstein, reveals himself and his bring imagination and good friends back into focus, rather than money and petty beefs and the internet. The heroes balk, calling themselves failures as heroes. They feel their lives have not been noble or at all heroic. But Despero, villain that he is, reveals that he has been monitering their progress through life. Karen, despite her shallow exterior, helps battered women in her off time. Captain Starrior has inspired millions, so Ricky feels justified. Superman is the best English teacher that his students have known (Despero has taped depositions), and finally, DiMarco, despite his monetary failure, is by Despero's standards, hilarious.

The farce over, he changes into his former incarnation, Ant-Man, and for just one more night, they play the night away.

Michael finishes his tale on his computer, which this entire time, apparently, he has been writing. None of the characters changed much, but they have a nice memory now, and all seems well in the land of make believe.

1Story - 1: This plot is definitely recycled from about eighty cultural stereotypes and, I'm guessing, a dire need to meet a deadline. Bernard Epstein is obviously Bill Gates, thinly and not creatively disguised. The parallels to the characters and their attitudes towards life also seem forced and token. Batman's a tough guy...when he was a kid he smoked, and he came from a troubled family. Superman's a noble English teacher. Wonder Woman's a buxom woman who wants Superman and earned her money the hard way before seemingly happening upon her beauty. And Elastic Man, well, he's never really characterized. The format obviously limits depth, and while certain things needed to be expounded upon, like heaven forbid character, other things seemed thrown in, and badly. Superman is punched, in front of all his friends, and no one reacts. No one is angry, no one does anything at all. They keep walking. This happens to Batman, too. He tries to stop a woman from being beaten, something that in later revelation would probably revile Wonder Woman and somehow doesn't. He is punched for his efforts, and again, no one reacts. This could happen in the real world, but not in a story with such an upbeat and satirical nature. The writer of this story was more concerned with the novelty of the Realworlds idea, I imagine, than the plot itself. Further, simple editorial matters, like Karen's last name, and Michael's last changing from Riley on the first page to Reilly on 14 indicate that this product was either rushed or not very well cared for. Cookie cutter characters, cheesy dialogue, no depth, and very little action to go with a dead story. Ugh.

2Art - 2: Batman and Superman, when out of costume, were hard to tell from one another. These drawings reek of something Alex Ross penciled and forgot to paint, with very little color, and that color that remains quite drab and unappealing, I suppose to convey the real world feel. It fails in this. It gives an almost Dark Knight Returns feel, but the thing is, the format for Dark Knight allowed for cartoony characters and exagerrated strength, while the real world demands vivid detail, unless the mood of the piece is dark, which this book certainly doesn't seem to promote. All is happy save the fact that the characters believe themselves failures, but even this is rebuked. I give it a two because, while hard to view, the art is rather anatomically correct and not too cartoony. Too cartoony would have made me retch, given the overtly stereotypical (and unintentionally at that, I'd imagine) mood of the book.

3Cover Art - 3: This cover tells you exactly what you will find in this piece...nothing you expected. The characters in the cover, though in a subway car, never once in the story ride the subway. I think this subjects the reader to proper warning, albeit after the fact, that the piece will in no way reflect expectation: A gritty, real world story with emphasis on humanity, rather than the typical comic book fare of blind action and villains with no motivation save to be evil. Following the accurate depiction of the book, I'd have to give it a three. For quality, it's kind of drab, and I'd have to give it a two, were it not for the depiction. That's worth a point.

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January 2000

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