You say you've got a problem, and you tried the JLA, but it costs too much to phone the Moon, and your hair is turning gray. Just call us up... 'cause we're the ones... 'pon whom you can depend... we'll be your bestest super-buddies... 'til the very end!
— Theme song for the Super-Buddies, by L-Ron (Extended dance mix)
The Justice League International (or "JLI") was the Post Crisis version of the Justice League of America. Starting with Justice League #1 (May, 1987), it gained its more familiar title with issue #7 (November, 1987).By that time, comic books were getting Darker and Edgier, and most of the "Big Seven" heroes of DC Comics were unavailable for varied reasons. So writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis had to work with a cast of mostly minor characters, including such nonsuperpowered heroes as Blue Beetle and Mister Miracle. What to do then? Giffen had a great idea: instead of going Darker and Edgier, they went Lighter and Softer, turning the comic book into a super hero comedy. Yes, they get to fight against vampires, Mad Scientists, dictators, giant Nazi robots, alien invasions and the like, but most of their plots dealt with completely bizarre situations: Guy Gardner and Ice having a date at an ice show, the heroes go to school to learn French, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold build a casino at a paradise island, or the mayhem at both their embassies caused by... an alley cat (yes, they made a 2 issues crossover with that). They were also used to fight Harmless Villains and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains, and had to deal with annoying "good guys" as G'Nort or The Beefeater. All that being said, the book could and did get quite dark, and these dark times were often more affecting, precisely because of the overall light tone of the book; also, the dark times were also often the funniest, at least to some readers.The initial cast (Batman, Martian Manhunter, Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Captain Marvel, Mister Miracle and his sidekick Oberon) got new members afterwards, such as Booster Gold or Fire and Ice (from the Global Guardians, a Multinational Team that the United Nations disbanded to form the JLI). They got a related series, "Justice League Europe" (JLE), with Captain Atom, Power Girl, Metamorpho, The Flash, Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man) and his wife Sue, Rocket Red, and Animal Man. All teams were managed by Maxwell Lord, a crooked but ultimately good-hearted man. (He was turned into an evil villain during the Countdown to Infinite Crisis, but was not a villain at all back then, except when controlled by an evil computer).When Giffen and DeMatteis left the series, they made a Grand Finale where the League lost the UN support and disbanded. The League then returned in Justice League Spectacular, with much the same characters, but a less overtly comedic tone, including Maxwell Lord's apparent death. (Somewhere in the middle of that, Justice League Europe changed its name to Justice League International, for maximum confusion.) Following Zero Hour, Wonder Woman and Captain Atom formed rival Leagues (Cap's appearing in the too-nineties-for-words book Extreme Justice), before Grant Morrison re-invented the JLA as "the Big Seven", and the last vestiges of the Giffen/DeMatteis League disappeared.These folks returned in the miniseries "Formerly Known as the Justice League" and "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League". As the 'real' Justice League was now in operation, they were named "The Super Buddies" instead.The team was reunited by Judd Winick in the well-received Justice League: Generation Lost maxi-series, albeit with the new Blue Beetle and Rocket Red filling in for their deceased predecessors. This lead to a 2011 New 52 relaunch of Justice League International, which featured many of the same characters, as well as Vixen, Godiva and August General in Iron. Despite decent sales, the latest series has since been cancelled in order to launch a new Justice League of America title, and ended with an Annual issue in September 2012 to finish the story.
Justice League International contains examples of:
Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: If you thought that Earth sewers were disgusting, then you have never been through Apokolips' sewers. And someone simply has to ask: why does the sewer system lead directly to Darkseid's private lair?
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The origin story of Maxwell Lord. He was a successful businessman, and found by chance the computer of Metron. Rather than using the computer for his purposes, the computer used Lord to Take Over the World (including his initial relations with the League). When he realized the true nature of the computer, Lord destroyed it, even if that meant that he would die afterwards because the computer was keeping him alive. The League found him and saved his life, and when the Martian Manhunter read Lord's mind and understood the things he did, J'onn left him with a JL card, as a token of his trust.
This is an interesting case. It's not Guy's "bad boy" personality that Ice likes, but the nice guy that occasionally shines through.
All Just a Dream: Most of one issue consists of Max dreaming about being the violent superhero "Maximum Force"; he's relieved to wake up and realize none of it happened.
All Men Are Perverts: Except J'onn, Batman and Hawkman. And Captain Atom, despite of Crimson Fox's best effords. And Mr. Miracle, but for good reason: if Big Barda ever discovers him cheating on her with another woman, it's just 5 seconds before dismembering.
America Saves the Day: Subverted. The suffix "International" instead of "Of America" is not just a name, but a plot element, as the team is endorsed by the UN, had a related team located in Europe and embassies at other countries. It is highly specific when the U.S. sends the supergroup "The Conglomerate" to depose a Latin American dictator, and the UN orders the JLI to stop the Conglomerate.
Amusing Alien: G'Nort. Amusing for us readers, for the League he's maddening. Max even appointed him as member of the "Justice League Antarctica", along with the Injustice League, just to get rid of him by relocating him in the middle of nowhere.
Another Dimension: The destroyed Earth where the Justifiers came from. The Silver Sorceress could use her magic to move across dimensions at will; Dreamslayer could do the same as well when he took the info from her.
Anti-Climax: They are specially good at it. Blue Beetle always point that there's nothing as good as humor to relax an otherwise conflictive situation
Applied Phlebotinum: Power Girl eventually learns that the source of her violent mood swings is diet soda, although this was a Retcon, since, when Giffen and De Matteis were writing the book, her "mood swings" were obviously the result of the fact that some people on the team were perfectly nice to her, and others constantly ogled her and said obnoxious things to her.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Fire's, er, fire form. Of course, how detailed the human outline is depends on the artist.
Brilliant but Lazy: Guy Gardner's combined willpower and imagination give him the potential to be one of the most powerful Green Lanterns ever. Too bad he doesn't really care to try that hard or he's usually too pissed off to think straight.
Butt Monkey: Fans of Captain Marvel or Animal Man will not like this comic. The former's naive optimism is constantly joked about by the other team members (he's nicknamed Captain Whitebread), and the latter's powers are treated as completely useless.
By the Power of Grayskull!: Joseph Jones transformed into General Glory by shouting "Lady Liberty hear my plea! For the land of the brave and the home of the free!"
Captain Ersatz: Take a guess who the Scarlet Skier is a parody of. He tried really hard too. Took a correspondence course in melodrama. And to make it funnier, he's basically the only villain G'Nort ever defeated.
Casanova Wannabe: Booster Gold in France, in his civilian clothing, tries to seduce a random French woman... and fails in 46 seconds, with Ted Kord laughing loudly. Even worse, that random woman was Catherine, but she does not recognize Gold in his super hero suit... until she passes by Blue Beetle, who's still laughing.
Chekhov's Gun(wo)man: When Queen Bee first appears, she's just Harjavti's assistant, and her role is just to provide dialogue to hear Harjavti's Evil Plan. Later, she unexpectedly kills him, and suddenly becames the new dictator of Bialya.
Continuity Nod: In an early comic the League is engaged by a squadron of Rocket Reds, ending with Black Canary kicking one in the face through his mask. A few months later when a Rocket Red is assigned to the league, it's revealed to be the same guy, now sporting a missing tooth thanks to the kick.
Covers Always Lie: Going by the comic cover pictured above you'd think Wonder Woman was a significant character in the series. You'd be very, very wrong.
Creator Cameo: The League complained several times about a bizarre comic book about them that was published. Gardner even destroyed their office, after feeling insulted.
Special mention goes to Blue Beetle. While in Bialya, he was unknowingly brainwashed into becoming a sleeper agent. Some time later, he gets activated and nearly takes out the entire League single-handedly. Even Batman admits that Beetle gave him a run for his money, impressing Beetle himself.
Cursed with Awesome: The Grey Man was a sorcerer of the middle ages, who managed to see the Masters of Order. He was cursed to live forever at a lonely island, doing mystical maintenance to the world... until he finds out that, in their weird logic, the Masters of Order thought they were blessing him.
Dramatic Pause: Lampshaded by Manga Khan and L-Ron. After destroying a planet, Manga Khan asks where do they go now, and L-Ron points that they found a perfect planet. Khan complains in the corridor why L-Ron is not saying anything else, and L-Ron points that he was making a dramatic pause. And the planet was... Earth! But, as L-Ron said, I guess nobody should be surprised about that.
Europeans Are Kinky: Crimson Fox more exactly, Vivian D'Aramis, not Constance was always trying to seduce Captain Atom. Captain Atom replied with the "American military are stoic" trope.
Fiery Redhead: Guy, though just how red his hair was depended on the artist.
Get Rich Quick Scheme: Beetle and Booster had several; the best-remembered is probably "Club JLI", where they stole Justice League funds to start up a casino resort on what turned out to be a living island.
Good Ol' Boy: Hawkman. The perfect Thanagarian republican... even if there are no republicans on Thanagar.
He's Back: And how! Guy Gardner, after some months of Identity Amnesia, was so calm, reading the poetry of Leonard Nimoy... then, with a new Tap on the Head, he returns to be the Guy Gardner he all love and enjoy (well, he returns to his usual self, period) and goes with all the rage against Lobo.
Head Desk: How some of the characters deal with the goofiness around them, especially Oberon.
Heel Face Mole: Lobo briefly joined the League for a chance to kill the members (plus Big Barda and G'Nort) who were on a mission in space at the time.
I'm a Humanitarian: During a membership drive, all applicants (or at least alien ones) had to answer a question on whether they've ever eaten a human. Kilowog comments "That's ridiculous! Humans taste terrible!"
Identity Amnesia: Tired of having Batman in command, Guy Gardner took off the ring and tried to settle things as men do. Batman thrashed the hell out of him in a single punch◊. When he woke up, he tried to retrieve his ring from beneath a desk, and got a second Tap on the Head. When he woke up, he was a new Guy Gardner, interested in poetry, good feelings, friendship, respectful, being nice to everyone... in short, everything that Guy Gardner is not. He stayed that way for several months (even across the Millenium crossover), and then returned to his true self against Lobo.
Incredible Shrinking Aliens: During the "Invasion", Booster Gold was left on monitor duty with Oberon, while the others got all the fun against the Aliens. And then, the embassy is attacked by a band of Khunds... smurf-sized Khunds, because of Phlebotinum Breakdown, but still, smurf-sized Khunds with laser weapons. Booster Gold, so eager to crush some aliens, is defeated off-screen in a single panel, and it's Oberon who manages to defeat them. Being in the same League with Guy Gardner and Max Lord may had been difficult for Oberon, but being called "Giant" surely made it worth. By the way, what would you do with smurf-sized aliens after you defeat them? Throw some big books over them? Nah, there are humane ways to deal with them... such as placing them inside cockroach traps.
King Incognito: The League makes a stealth mission into Bialya, dressed as common random people. To do so, Batman impersonates a millionaire: Bruce Wayne (the thing is that none of his teammates was aware that he is Bruce Wayne).
Barda: If he bleeds, every single drop will create another one of him.
Manhunter: Every. Single. Drop?
Barda: Just stall him.
Meaningful Name: The JLI comics reveal that Lobo's name is Thusly for "He who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it."
Moral Guardian: General Glory tries to be one, but it doesn't work too well given the rest of the team. Spending most of his time with Guy Gardner really didn't help.
*General Glory gets visibly flustered when some woman mentions being naked.*
Fire: Are you embarrassed? General, we're all naked under our clothes.
General Glory: Yes, but does everyone have to know about it?
Ms. Fanservice: Fire, with her second clothing set. Power Girl, contrary to her usual role in modern DC comics, was not Ms. Fanservice back then: first she had the physique of a bodybuilder rather than of a supermodel, and then she changed to the white-and-yellow costume with no Cleavage Window.
The Grey Man controlled Captain Marvel and fought against the Martian Manhunter, who took him down hard (but without realizing that Marvel was freed seconds ago).
Starro, of course, is a JLA classic, and controlled the JLE, the Martian Manhunter and all of Britain (except the Clash and the Sex Pistols), and was defeated by Ice.
Dreamslayer controlled Maxwell Lord and many members of both Leagues, until his spirit was killed by the Silver Sorceress.
Queen Bee used this on many Bialyans, the Global Guardians and other influential people she could capture.
And yes, Maxwell Lord had this power. But, contrary to the Maxwell Lord seen in DC since Countdown to Infinite Crisis, he hardly ever used it. The first time, he manipulated Blue Beetle without even being aware he had such power. He used it to make the Huntress join the League (which was indeed wrong, but he realized it himself and let her go). He used it on a girl he liked to begin talking (just that). And hardly anything else (the things done under the control of Dreamslayer don't count).
Played for Laughs: Manga Khan plays for laughs most tropes associated to the megalomaniac villains: pompous speeches, unneeded shouts, monologuing, stock phrases...
L-Ron: Sir, the shields have fallen.
Manga Khan: WHAT?!
L-Ron: I said that the shields have fallen.
Manga Khan: I heard you! It was a rhetoric 'what', stupid!
President Evil: A recurring enemy was Rumaan Harjavti, dictator of the Fictional Country of Bialya. Harjavti was killed by Queen Bee, who became the new dictator, and Arch-Enemy of the JLE. She was killed at the Grand Finale by Rumaan's identical twin brother, Sumaan.
Dr. Light (the female one, from Crisis on Infinite Earths) was supposed to be a member of the team, being featured at the front page of the first issue and all. But she played a very minor role, did not even use the costume, and left at the beginning of the 4th issue. Then, she returned at the Grand Finale... only to play an even smaller role and leave again. (She got slightly more to do when she joined the JLE.)
Dr. Fate does this twice. He's also on the cover of the first issue and barely appears after that. About half an issue is dedicated to Fate (now with a female body) rejoining the League, but again, she almost never shows up after that.
Signature Laugh: Both heroes and villains would let out a loud "BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"
Slice of Life: Often a source of humor in the series: it treated its characters as real people with quirks and flaws that we don't associate with superheroes. Even Martian Manhunter gained an addiction for... Oreos.
Another recurring subplot was Blue Beetle and Booster Gold constantly being broke. The two would either do freelance hero jobs or attempt grand get-rich-quick schemes to make money.
As noted under Big Eater, Beetle constantly struggled with his weight.
Smash The Symbol: So, first issue of a comic book making fun out of comic book tropes... who should they fight first? What about a terrorist threatening to blow up the United Nations? Nobody did that the previous three months...
The Spock: First Batman, and then the Martian Manhunter for the most time. Did you think that the vulcan Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager had a difficult time dealing with Neelix? He did not endure a small fraction of the things that J'onn had to endure.
One of the Manhunter robots try to crash the ship at an oil refinery, but the Rocket Reds stop him and he crashes on the oil refinery alone. Then, his basic frame gets out of the explosion, same as the Terminator. Booster Gold blows him into pieces.
Hawkman was one toward the Silver Age in general. He became so disgusted with the brash, crude nature of his teammates that he quit the League in a matter of days.
Hawkman: "Hell"?! Did you just say "hell"?! In all my life, I've never heard Hal Jordan say "hell"!