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:
Absolute Cleavage: Fire's and Ice's first outfit (seen in the above group shot), and Owlwoman.
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.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Ice simply loves Guy Gardner, much to Fire's despair. Interestingly It's not Guy's "bad boy" personality that Ice likes, but the nice guy that occasionally shines through.
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.
Deconstructed during JLE. The fact the team is made up of mostly Americans and one Russian at first is a bone of contention with the French, where the JLE's initial embassy is. The fact none of them outside The Elongated Man and Rocket Red 5 (Said Russian) know the language does not help.
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 DeMatteis 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.
Arc Words: "Why does everybody in this group insist in questioning my orders?"
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.
Beetle himself is no slouch in this department, failing to pick up a woman even in costume at his own resort.
The Flash when it comes to his fellow superheroes. Power Girl just tended to either be annoyed by it or ignore it while Fire threatened him.
The Cavalry: Double subverted in the first JLI-JLE crossover. Overwhelmed by vampires, Rocket Red told Captain Atom that it was a good moment for the arrival of the cavalry. Atom told him that he saw too many American films, no cavalry will come to their rescue because This Is Reality. And then... the JLI arrived, and Blue Beetle pointed that "the cavalry is here!"
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 becomes the new dictator of Bialya.
Comic Books Are Real: General Glory is Guy Gardner's favourite comic book character. That's a real American, not that flying boy scout who isn't even from this planet! And one day, he got the last remaining comic book of General Glory. Some old folk was annoying him to let him have a brief look at it, and Gardner finally let him. He located the magic words, which he had forgot during years of amnesia, and turned into General Glory!
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.
Continuity Porn: If you notice something strange about Dr. Fate (such as that he is an old man now, or even a woman), don't ask questions. It's better for your sanity. Don't even bother with a "but are Dr. Fate or not?", it will just make things more complicated.
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.
Damsel in Distress: Black Canary really hates to be one of those. Mr. Miracle even had to negotiate with her to save her life.
Death Glare: It was all that Batman needed to force Guy Gardner out of his tantrum and sit down.
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.
A notable aversion occurs with, of all people, Guy Gardner. Giffen and DeMatteis were concerned with how much Flanderization had already occurred with the character, who initially was more intelligent than Hal Jordan, but by the time of joining the JLI was mostly famous as a Jerk Ass with severe brain damage. A punch from Batman sends Guy into an alternate, hyper-sensitive persona, eventually revealed to be a total con, as Guy enjoyed screwing with his teammates. His girlfriend, Ice, sees through it.
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.
Hawkman: "Hell?!" Did you just say "Hell?!" Never in my life did I hear Hal Jordan say "Hell!"
Headbutting Heroes: What happened when the League had their first meeting? A head to head fight! Oh, sorry if I broke the surprise.
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 we 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.
Hero with Bad Publicity: The League was constantly insulted by Jack Ryder on TV. Max Lord knew he had to counter this publicity to have the League go international as planned.
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 ''Millennium crossover), and then returned to his true self against Lobo.
Incredible Shrinking Aliens: During 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.
Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: What can a very old Nazi, who can barely stand up without breaking his bones, do against the Justice League? Of course! Unleash the giant Nazi robot, with the face of Hitler! Sure, those youngsters will complain that nobody fights against giant Nazi robots anymore, that they are old-fashioned... What do they know about the good stuff?
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).
The Extremists arc is another contender, with 5 expies of well-known Marvel Ssupervillains from another dimension coming to the main DC universe, hell-bent on killing as many people as possible and holding the entire Earth under the threat of a barrage of nukes just to get their kicks. Like with the Despero arc, the League can't even beat them on their own, only saving the day with the help of a Walt Disney expy, (yes, seriously,) and new Leaguer, Silver Sorceress, though she had technically been in JLI since its earliest days, if not as a Leaguer. There a few other such stories aside from those two, and when these types of stories occurred, the general light & silly tone that the rest of the series exuded made the more serious tales all the more shocking.
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.
Not Me This Time: After a battle during the Invasion crossover, Mr. Miracle is cleaning the debris of a fallen alien starship, and Guy Gardner is kicking things around, with no regards for the possible consequences. Mr. Miracle tells him that if he's not careful he can make a big disaster, kicking things like that... and, suddenly, all the world turns black & white. But no, it wasn't because of Gardner, it was another attack of the aliens, which happened worldwide.
No True Scotsman: Annoyed by the presence of Jack O' Lantern, member of the Global Guardians, Captain Atom defied Dr. Mist to name a single member of the Justice League that is a violent psycho. Dr. Mist simply said "Guy Gardner". "Name another!"
Oblivious to His Own Description: The Joker instructed his mook to send him with Rocket Red, to kill him. But he was at a party filled with Russians. The Joker was angered with his mook, he's not going to kill that many people just to kill Rocket Red. What did the mook thought he was, a mass killer?
Mook: Well... yes.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Ambassador Heimlich, who fired many members of both teams and intended to rule the League with an iron fist. He was outed as a spy of the Queen Bee.
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.
Rambling Old Man Monologue: General Glory spends most of his time narrating his old anecdotes with FDR and in World War II. J'Onn proposed him to write a book of his memoirs... and save those memoirs for the book.
Remember the New Guy: General Glory, a Captain America parody. Justified since knowledge of his existence was actively suppressed by the government, leading most people to assume he was just a comic book character.
Animal Man could never find a useful animal to use with his powers.
Batman always seemed to disappear when the group acted really crazy/immature. In one case, he left after just having the day's events described to him.
Reassigned to Antarctica: The Injustice League, after trying for One Last Job only to end up foiling a robbery by a group of terrorists at the same location, decide to go straight and turn to the JLI for help. Max decides that since things tend to go insane when they get involved, to bring them on using this trope, literally reassigning them to Antarctica and packing Gnort away. This goes about as well as you'd expect, with mutant penguins attacking within days of the new branch starting, though Major Disaster does end up beating them with an avalanche when both branches of the JLI couldn't... albeit destroying JLAntarctica's headquarters in the process
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.
Spoiler Opening: Max Lord had suddenly woke up from the coma. Someone has stolen the robots of the Extremists. At the end of the comic book, we find out that Lord has awaken because Dreamslayer has possessed his body. This should have been a huge reveal... if it wasn't openly announced on the comic book cover.
Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Deconstructed. A secret villain organization captures the ugly cat, install a camera in his eye, and return him to the embassy. Great, now they can spy the secrets of the Justice League Europe! Or not. After that expensive operation, they spent months watching the cat drinking water from the toilet, playing in the garbage, sleeping at weird places, trying to eat Blue Jay, etc, etc.
Take Over the World: That's what Rumaan Harjavti wants to do... or, at least, take over half the world, and work from that point.
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"!
Talking Is a Free Action: General Glory is capable of giving a speech about the value of the American three powers while falling to his death.