I was watching an episode of Justice League (2001 TV series) the other day and something struck me. Usually I watch “Superhero” cartoons to be intrigued by the powers of the gifted characters (watch them blow stuff up), but this one time made me think to look at their personalities….. It was the opening sequence that struck me.
The one time I chose not to skip it, I learned more about the characters of the Justice League than any episode conceived. I felt I knew Superman, Batman, Wonder woman, Hawkgirl, The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter on a more personal level. And I’ll explain why….
First off, Justice League is a series about a group of Superheroes who decide that it would be better for the Earth if they joined forces. So every episode a new threat presents itself, and it’s up to these guys to stop it..
Justice League has a unique opening sequence. The superheroes get to showcase their talents in peculiar 3D, even when the cartoons are 2D drawings.. but much before then, silhouettes of Justice League characters walk towards the screen in a particular formation, a formation that never changes throughout the series:
Judging from their figure forms, from the left its, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Wonder woman, Superman, Batman, Flash and Hawkgirl. On their slow advance, their forms dissolve in the rising sun and are transformed into the letters J.U.S.T.I.C.E respectively as seen here
It could be overlooked by anybody, but this transformation holds more meaning than meets the eye. Not only do the symbols uncannily fit the body shapes of the characters, they provide more insight into their personalities as well. Taking each letter individually, I will propose why:
J – Martian Manhunter
J is a letter that is widely associated with important biblical matyrs and god figures, like Jesus and Jehovah.. and the Martian Manhunter’s story is not so different from theirs. He even introduces himself as J‘onn J‘onzz.. an implied nod to the name John.
Following the series, J‘onn joins the Justice League after a siege of predators attacks his home planet, Mars. He is the only survivor, becoming so by sealing the invaders in suspended animation (much like Jesus sealing demons in hell after his death). He is only on Earth to warn humans of the impending danger from the aliens’ escape.
Martian Manhunter is also easily the most emotionally available character in the series, and shows the most self sacrifice. His powers range from the miraculous to the ghostly: Invisibility, Levitation, telepathy, he’s able to pass through others and manipulate their internal organs. Martian Manhunter is depicted as a perpetually morose and wandering character. He lives in an emotional Jail he fashioned for himself. And even with the vastness of his intelligence and the extent of his powers, he will always put himself in harms way to protect others. He is, in the true sense of the word.. Just.
U – Green Lantern
U is for Understanding and no other character in JL embodies wisdom as much as Green Lantern. In the opening sequence, Green Lantern recharges his power ring and is immediately seen as a harrowing character with his eyes shining a grim white.
Green Lantern’s ring exudes Ultimate power and its forces are so unnervingly complex that only a mind like his could control; as such, he is able to shoot Ultrarays of very many shapes and designs. Even with all the power attributed to him he is not corrupted by it in any way. In an early episode he willingly hands over his ring to a tribunal on the suggestion of its misuse, and delivers himself to be arrested. His demeanour is likened to that of an army general, who has seen many battles and wars, who knows when to attack and when to retreat, when to intimidate and when to apologise. He is like a father figure to the group.
S – Wonder woman
The Seeping S; Slender, Serene.. Sexy. Admit it or not, Wonder Woman is the Justice League member Superman aspires to be. He even submits to her prowess in battle.
As an amazon dedicating herself to the human race, she is the one that most embodies purity of heart and clarity of action. She is also the team’s most Superstitious member, who dedicates her battles and attributes her triumphs to the greek goddess hera.
Wonder Woman’s refusal to be corrupted can be seen in the rings on her wrist, which she uses to deflect enemy attacks, and her lasso of truth that impales them to “Surrender to truth”. As many things in life, her beauty lies in her Simplicity.
T – Superman
It’s easy to see why Superman takes up the centre T in JUSTICE as he is the core and leader of the Justice League. Every other member looks to him for direction and respects him.. like a Temple. He is the Temple of the group.
He is Tough and Tenacious, but also Tame. In the opening sequence, he punches through a wall violently.. then slowly flies through it. His attraction to Wonder Woman lies in the fact that she refuses to be swayed by the evils of the world, which he occasionally finds himself succumbing to; and that she mirrors him in strength and devotion. It may also be because she is, well.. hot.
It could be important to note that in the opening sequence, all the characters to the right of Superman (ie. Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman) represent the “good” side of the Justice League, while the characters to the right of Supes (Batman, Hawkgirl, Flash) represent the “bad” side of the Justice League, but in character only. What I mean is, the characters to his right all have predominantly good traits in their personalities. However the characters to his left have one predominant bad (evil) trait. For example, Batman is driven mostly by vengeance and is almost Supes’ complete opposite. Hawkgirl is driven mostly by wrath, she will hit first and ask questions later. Flash is cocky and arrogant, and will brag about his speed any time he has the opportunity. Superman represents a point of balance between all these contrasting characters.
I – Batman
Batman is not only cool, he’s Ice cold. The visibility of the bat ears on his silhouette shows he accentuates the group. He’s a straight arrow, who’s never deterred by ANYTHING even though he’s the only team member that’s pure human. In the opening sequence, he throws a bat shaped blade into the infinite distance. He represents the vision, the eye (i) of the group.
In many ways, Batman also represents the future of the Justice League: a human that dedicates themself to defending the earth without assistance from Super beings. He is the team’s most Intelligent and Inspiring member. As Bruce Wayne, he creates the space station which the team use as their main base, and is always tasked with creating new Ideas that improve the league and gets them out of sticky situations. He is Superman’s closest unspoken rival.
C – Flash
The Flash is Cunning, Crafty and Clever. Also Comical. As the fastest man alive he works against the Clock to protect the earth, but sometimes he can be a real Calamity to the group. He represents the spirit of friendliness of the league towards the human race, as he is the league member they can relate with the most (which is saying something, as Batman is actually all human). He is the team’s most light hearted.. he even sounds like a kid.
E – Hawkgirl
Hawkgirl is the most Evasive member of the Justice League. She takes to the sky like a bird and bludgeons anything in her path. She may represent freedom and Escape from oppression the team tries so hard to maintain on Earth. In battle, she always comes off as the most Excited of all the group to fight off enemies.