Film

Age of the DCAU: Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

Written by Dara Berkey

Justice League: The New Frontier is based off a graphic novel by the same name by Darwyn Cooke. New Frontier started in 1953 and ended in 1961. There are a lot things going on politically that affected the superheroes. The Justice Society, known as Mystery Men, who were vigilantes and heroes prior to World War II starting, were disbanded because of the McCarthy hearings. Batman was labelled a vigilante and a criminal. Hour-Man was killed. Superman and Wonder Woman were conflicting over the role of the United States in the world, post-World War II. The main villain/enemy was the Centre, an unknown prehistoric entity. The Centre wanted to wipe out the human race because it feared humans so much.

There are multiple connecting stories that make up New Frontier. Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and Martian Manhunter were the three major characters. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and other characters were supporting. After the Centre’s monologue on his purpose, the movie opens with Hal Jordan and his pilot friend Ace Morgan flying over Korean in 1953. The war just ended with a ceasefire, but Hal was shot down. He never fired his jet’ weapons, but he had no choice but to kill the North Korean soldier to survive. He spent some months in a V.A. hospitals psych ward for battle fatigue/PTSD.  That same year, a scientist accidentally transported J’onn J’onzz from Mars to Earth.

A year later, Superman and Wonder Woman have a major difference of opinion of the United States’ role and superheroes’ role in the world. Martian Manhunter had been living as the scientist, learning about humans through television. Barry Allen as the Flash faced off with Captain Cold in Las Vegas when the casino Iris was interviewing singers was attacked. Hal Jordan and Ace Morgan were also there relaxing. Hal gets a job interview at Ferris Air.  Martian Manhunter becomes a police detective. Batman stalks the night of Gotham scaring everyone. The mystery surrounding the Centre cult begins to be investigated by J’onn and Batman.

Hal’s job turned out to be for a space mission to Mars, funded by the United States government. It quickly goes awry and Superman managed to save Hal, but not Rick Flagg. Eventually, events culminate with the Centre attacking Paradise Island. Wonder Woman flew her invisible jet to warn Superman of the impending danger. Superman’s supposed sacrifice spurred all the superheroes to stand together and create a plan. Thanks to the combined effort of the United States military and the superheroes, who had been hunted and distrusted for years, the day was won and the Centre destroyed.

As history is my area of expertise, I enjoy New Frontier especially because of its use of history throughout the movie and the era’s political undertones of McCarthyism and Red Scares. There are a couple of things about the movie that bothered me. Superman’s characterization irritated me. Again depending on the writer, Superman’s interpretation varies. Superman apparently signed a loyalty oath to the United States government. He unintentionally set himself up as the moral leader of the superheroes. His role was ‘big brother is watching.’ If anyone should have issues with the United States government, Superman should be top contender. My second problem with the movie is the whole concept of the Centre. I understand that it was vague on purpose. The dinosaurs did not make any sense. Also, I think that it was defeated way too easily, but maybe that just me.

There are reasons why I like this movie so much. While there were loads of characters, it used the history of the characters and connected together well. The story was written well, especially since it spanned years, with few hiccups. The art and animation of Justice League: The New Frontier is awesome. It some of my favorite art, especially since it was done by Darwyn Cooke. The friendship and camaraderie of the superheroes was the best part of the movie. I like when superheroes are friends and can work together to save the day. Lastly, the political landscape over the question of the role of superheroes in the world is one of my favorite theme. Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War addressed these problems and questions within modern context, but New Frontier addressed them though a Cold War context.

Justice League: The New Frontier is always fun to watch, especially for a comic book enthusiast, but it is also good for people who do not know who the Justice Society were, or the Blackhawks, or Hour-Man, and other minor characters. The end of the movie had JFK’s “New Frontier” speech about the space race program with scenes of the future of superheroes, including the Teen Titans, the formation of the Justice League when Starro attacked (the original origin story for the Justice League), and other team-ups.

I would recommend the movie for anyone to watch because it is fun and thought-provoking. Justice League: The New Frontier is a great animated movie, for great cameo appearances and old favorite heroes. Feel free to add comments about this movie!

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About the author

Dara Berkey

Superhero nerd. History nerd. Favorite personal hero--Shazam/The Original Captain Marvel. Favorite female hero--Any of the Batgirls. Favorite male hero, other than Shazam--Any of the Robins.