Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Dude Looks Like a Lady Week would not be complete without a look at Justice League Task Force #7 and #8, Peter David’s notorious gender-bending “Valley of the Daals” storyline. Actually, I don’t know if the comics are notorious, but they are noteworthy.

Here’s a little background: Justice League Task Force was sort of an anthology title featuring multiple issue storylines with different teams of heroes. This particular storyline is a screwball comedy by writer Peter David and artists Sal Velluto and Jeff Albrecht that stars J’onn J’onnz and an all-female team of Leaguers (Vixen, Dolphin, Wonder Woman, and Maxima). The team is sent to find a canister holding a deadly virus that is in the hands of an all-female, all-green tribe of women known as the Daals, (...) who live in a volcano or something. In the interest of smooth negotiations, J’onn uses his shape shifting powers to turn himself into a woman. Wouldn’t you know it, the queen of the Daals falls in love with green female Joan J’onzz, and hilarity ensues. The shape shifted Manhunter must marry the queen in order to find out where the canister is!
Aye yai yai!

In case you couldn't tell, the whole scenario isn’t taken terribly seriously. For instance, the virus they’re all searching for is called the MacGuffin Virus. These comics are basically just a chance for Peter David to riff on the situation with sitcomy set-up-and delivery jokes. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, mind you. I gotta admire Peter David's chutzpah. He was trying to push things as far as he could with the material, particularly with this discussion about life in an all-female society:

You go, Wonder Woman! You go downtown!

Apparently some content in the books was just too much for DC – not me, the comic company. Check out the cover (at the top of this post) with nubile Joan J’onzz chained, menaced by serpents. Velluto’s original cover art, with Joan J’onzz in smaller bikini bottoms, was too caliente for those squares at Warner Bros, and they colored Joan to look like he/she was wearing adult incontinence undergarments. His/her belly is blue! I call that the De-Nudifying Effect, but I like Tom the Dog's term “Editorial Swimwear” better. Do you see what I'm talking about?

One of the other obvious flinches is the wedding scene, when Joan J’onzz and the presumably female queen seal their union with a kiss. A kiss that takes place off-panel!

What the hell? They can’t show girls kissing? The entire comic is about gender swapping and lesbianism and they can't show a kiss? I mean, I know this came out in 1994, but I say let my green lesbian sisters kiss!

Anyway, on their wedding night the queen reveals to J’onn the mystery of the Daals – the all-female race is sustained by the queen, who has a penis.

I’ll say it again – she has a penis.

Vixen: “Wow, y’know, I guessed the secret of The Crying Game but this I never saw coming.”

Long story short: the League team finds the virus container and everything is swell. The queen who has a penis is heart-broken by Joan’s betrayal – she loved Joan J’onzz at first sight. But then he saves her from a volcano and everything is cool. That's realistic; I have found in my own life that past transgressions are forgiven when you save somebody from a volcano.
In the end, J'onn transforms back into a woman and kisses the queen – I guess chicks can peck each other on the cheek in DC books, but no tongue – and then he flies off as Aerosmith cranks on the soundtrack: "Aaah! Aaah! Dude looks like a lady!"


Tim Easy said...

Wow, Dave. After reading this entry, I was speechless for a good ten minutes or so.

The thought of J'onn going anywhere near a volcano was also a stunner (given his weakness to fire). The DC editorial team must have nodded off at the wheel for a minute there.

Then again, J'onn was rescuing a Queen-with-a-penis, so why don't we just throw the entire rulebook right out the window?

George Takei, can I get an oh my? Oh myyyy

Angry Android said...

Oh, Dave, you missed your chance to truly annoy people with your post! Using the HTML editor when you enter your post can add to fun. For example, to make your Steven Tyler sound file play continuously, type in :

embed src="" controller="true" autoplay="false" loop="false" height="20" width="200" (use < and > at the beginning & end of the code string; I couldn't put it in because the comment box would actually try to decode it & fail miserably)

If you really want to stick it to the man, turn controller="false" autoplay="true" and and loop="true". It never ends!

Scarlett Drake said...

Justice League Task Force was the best JLA title for a good long time. Yes, I think it lasted 10 issues but by comparison to Extreme Justice and umm, whatever the other one was called, it was awesome.

See, the regular Wonder Woman title needs more oral sex jokes. It'd pick sales right up.

Adrian said...

I never thought any comic could beat All-Star Batman and Robin in terms of the "they actually published that?" factor, but this one did. It's like the kind of stories we would have had if writers had been allowed to write about homosexuality in the Silver Age.

Amy said...

I love how ultra-buff J'onn is when he switches back. Overcompensate much?

ruggervt said...

I think my verification 'word' says it all:


Dara said...

Wow, Dave, you sure do have an eye for detail. I actually own this issue but never noticed the De-Nudifying Effect on the cover.

And Scarlett, I believe Justice league Task Force last 38 issues, which in today's market is fairly respectable. By comparison, Extreme Justice ([plug]subject of last weekend's Ass award[/plug]) lasted around 20 issues.

Which, frankly, is 20 issues too many.

Steven said...

I think the lack of kissing was more an artistic choice than an editorial one, so that we could get a close-up of J'onn's "subtle" queasiness with the situation.

I know that an out of focus lesbian kiss kicks off Justice League Midsummer's Nightmare (and thus JLA) and I'm pretty sure Maggie Sawyer kissed her girlfriend on panel before that. Any one out there know the first time (in a DC book) lesbian affection was explicitly depicted?

tomthedog said...

Aaah! Aaah! Lady's got a penis!!

I smell a new hit single...

Dan Coyle said...

On the upside, Priest wrote the last year or so of JLTF, and that wasn't too bad.

corbiscide said...

Thanks Dave I read the first of this two parter. Always wondered what happened. All I can say is Vixen picked it right. That damn crying game movie came back to bite us again. There's another good topic, comics stealing from the hot movie scandal.

fwqixykd - my mothers actual words when she caught me with this book.

Scipio said...

Another exhibit for the People v. Peter David, who shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets, let alone write comic books.

Bully said...

"The queen who has a penis"


Tim O'Neil said...

There's an appropriate Eazy-E quotatio nthat should go right about here, but since this is ostensibly an all-ages blog I will refrain from quoting the crucial line of "Nobody Move".

arizonateach said...

Got scipio's back here. Sometimes I picture Peter David screaming at passers-by, "I'm so clever, can't you all see how clever I am? Why do all not acknowledge my cleverness? Bush sucks."

Yes, tgpshloa, my friends. Tgpshloa indeed.

SW said...

J'onn must have been thinking some lines from the great bard Ton Loc:

I don't fool around with no Oscar Meyer wiener
you must be sure that the girl is pure for the funky cold medina

you know,
ain't no plans with a man,
this is the 80s and I'm down the ladies

Amen, brother. Wrong decade, but Amen anyway.

Y'know, Ton Luc was in that scene in Ace Ventura that aped the Crying Game scene. Coincidence?

Paul S. said...

Speaking of Peter David I think it's a great tragedy that we never got a wacky gender swapping or cross dressing issue of Young Justice.

NiolK said...

Thats some beautiful shit.

sterg said...

With all those snakes on the cover, you'd think I'd have caught the foreshadowed ending.

Paging Dr. Freud...

Anonymous said...

Dave, so glad you included this classic story in your "Dude Looks Like a Lady" week!

A couple of points-

Sonny Calzone, the team actually never got near the flames until the end when they were escaping, and J'onn had to summon all his willpower to overcome his fear and get past them. So DC editorial didn't fall asleep.

Dave, Gypsy was included in that team of Justice League ladies as well. Maybe you missed her because she turned invisible. She and J'onn were the only two permanent members of the mission-specific JLTF roster.

After three or four story arcs with that setup, the group became the Justice League "training team" with J'onn, Gypsy, Ray, Triumph, and Despero/LRON. Ah, the 90s...a time when Despero/LRON, Triumph, and Gypsy could be on a team.

Anyway, anyone who hasn't read the "Joan J'onzz" story should check it out. It's a lot of fun, makes some good use of underused characters (Dolphin, Vixen), and puts our man J'onn in an interesting situation.

call me jack... said...

*lights another candle on pagan-Peter-David-worship altar.*

Tenzil said...

I would like to commend everyone for not taking the cheap route with "Brokeback Martian" jokes.

Verification word: nshat.

Sil Erdel said...

Another layer of this confusing confection comes from a root of the "lost civilization" concept, H. Rider Haggard's city of Kor and the goddess-queen Ayasha...although I'm fairly certain she was, well, a she. I think David even credits Haggard at the beginning and/or end of the two-parter.

missbhavens said...

oh...I was SO going to go for the "Brokeback Martian" joke here...

great post.

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Patrick said...

my wife just bought this one for me and when I read it my jaw dropped. By no way am I a BIG comic fan nor a collector but this one is never going anywhere. It is just unbelievable.

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