I should also mention that almost all of these characters have made appearances in my fan fiction series “Justice League Xander”, in which I cast Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer into the role of some of DC’s coolest non-powered heroes. I’ll include links for anyone who’s interested.
5. Mr. Terrific
In JLU, Mr. Terrific only appeared a few times, and never in any kind of action capacity. He took over for Martian Manhunter running the Watchtower and coordinating the League’s missions. So what could have possibly attracted me to this character with such little screen time? The name, which sounds ridiculous even by DC Comics standards? Maybe it was the fact that he was billed as the third smartest man in the world.
My research told me that this was actually the second hero to use the name Mr. Terrific, and that he fought crime with tiny floating balls called T-Spheres. The Wikipedia page doesn’t have much I’m afraid, which has only peaked my curiosity. Enough to seek him out in comic book form? No. Enough to fit him into my fanfic? Why yes, how did you know. Mr. T has made an appearance in “An Arrow’s Flight”, my Xander as Speedy story, and I’m currently kicking around an idea for another story with him in a more central role. I guess it’s the idea of a superhero fighting crime with his wits and his intellect that interests me.
4. Shining Knight
The ultimate fish out of water, Shining Knight is a knight from Arthurian legend displaced in the modern age. I guess what drew me to the character was the impossible situation that he’s been placed in, living in a world that he doesn’t understand, and yet he remains true to himself and his values. I remember noticing him on the show around the same time I noticed Vigilante. Seeing the two of them together, the cowboy and the knight, before I knew anything about them, they were like the Justice League’s version of the Village People. All they needed was a construction worker and an Indian chief and they would have been complete. But the friendship of those two characters turned out to be one of the most interesting things about them on the show. Two heroes from different eras, fighting along side the Justice League in the modern world. It was like a nod the DC Comics beginnings, bridging the gap between that and the future.
The nobility of the character made me think that it would be a good fit for Xander, and so I wrote “Shining White Knight”, which saw Xander displaced into the future in the world of Batman Beyond, where he takes up the mantle of Shining Knight.
When I was a kid, my dad used to watch a lot of Westerns, and I was always bored by them. I guess I just always associated them with old movies and old fashioned story telling, which didn’t interest me as a child. Then I saw Tombstone, and everything changed. Kurt Russel and Val Kilmer were so badass in that movie, Westerns took on a whole new light for me and the cowboy as hero character became really interesting to me. Especially after I realized that characters like Han Solo, with his low slung blaster holster and his kicky vest, are basically cowboys. They’re rebels and rougues, but there’s a simple morality to them too, a very black and white sense of right and wrong. So when Vigilante showed up on JLU, I took an interest, even before I heard him speak. And when I heard Nathan Fillion doing his voice, the character really fleshed out and became interesting.
His wiki page reveals a very old history, and an interesting one at that. In researching most of these characters I’ve realized what a rich history that DC comics has. When even the minor characters have 60 plus years of continuity, he can be intimidating.
One of the other things that attracted me to the character, and something that I worked into my Xander story, was the fact that we never saw his face. It was the mysterious stranger character that’s so common in Westerns. What is he hiding? What happened in his past that made him who he is and makes him do what he does? These are some of the themes that I borrowed for “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”.
2. Green Arrow
I’ve always liked archers, I don’t really know why. I remember the old Iron Man cartoon from the 90’s and really liking Hawkeye. Maybe because it’s just so unconventional, for a modern hero to fight crime with such an old fashioned weapon. There’s a romance to it as well, which I supposed is owed in no small part to Robin Hood, especially in Green Arrow’s case. Of all the characters on this list, he’s probably had the most screen time on JLU. When the League first went unlimited, Batman recognized the danger in creating such a large, powerful organization. Even though they had the best of intentions, there was the possibility that their power could be abused. Green Arrow was specifically recruited to be a voice for the regular guy, and to remind these heroes that their powers did not give them the right to cross the line, no matter what the reason. And in that regard, GA had a very important role on the show; the every man.
Xander is also an every man, which I felt made it a natural progression. In “An Arrow’s Flight”, he becomes Green Arrow’s sidekick because he admires him so much. The fact that a regular guy can work hard and accomplish great things without super powers is a reoccurring theme with most of these characters.
1. The Question
My friend Art (Scarecrows_Brain) and I had a discussion once about Batman. Specifically the idea that Bruce Wayne created the Batman persona to strike fear into criminals. Art contended that if in real life a man were to dress like a bat, criminals wouldn’t be scared of him, they would laugh at him and shoot him in the face (feel free to correct me Art if you feel that I’m misquoting you). This led to the question, which hero’s costume would work to that extent in real life? My answer: The Question. If a man approaches you in a dark alley, dressed in a suit and a long coat, and he doesn’t have a face, I don’t know about you but that would scare the shit out of me. When you can’t read facial expressions, you don’t know if he’s smiling or if he’s about to kill you, it’s unnerving. You can project anything onto that blank face, your worst fears.
On JLU Question (voiced by Jeffrey Combs) was played as a conspiracy nut, someone that the other Leaguers didn’t necessarily take seriously all the time. But in the end, The Question’s theories almost always proved to be true. He knows his stuff and he does his homework. He’s smart, not Albert Einstein smart or even Batman smart necessarily, but smart because he pays attention to everything and he knows how to read people and how to ask the right questions. I always felt like his conspiracy buff reputation spawned from the fact that his mind was sharp enough to make connections that no one else could see, that no one else would even think to consider. And his relationship with Huntress on the show added a vulnerability to the character and a humanity that made him not only interesting, but made you care about him.
The theme of masks is another common element in Xander fic, and one that I used for my stories “No Answers, Just Questions” and its sequel "Choices We Make". I like to think that I did the character justice, at least as far as the JLU version of the character. This is the one character on this list that I am planning on going back and reading the old comics, I’ve become that interested.