Webcomic Spotlight: JL8
In the 90s, there was an Uncanny X-Men annual that featured cloned, toddler versions of the X-Men called the X-Babies. This was an apparent response to a recent trend of releasing “baby” versions of popular properties (Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, Baby Looney Tunes, and many others), and as a parody of those shows, it worked pretty well. It was kind of cute and kind of funny, and it was a fine one-shot diversion for an annual. The characters have made a handful of appearances since then, and though I haven’t seen them, I can only assume that they have produced diminishing returns. The X-Babies are a gimmick, and nothing more. It doesn’t take long for the joke to wear thin, and then what’s the point?
At a glance, one might think that Yale Stewart’s JL8 is simply the X-Babies concept applied to DC’s Justice League, but that’s not the case at all. JL8 re-imagines the Justice League as 8-year-olds, but that’s where the similarities end. While the X-Babies exist in the regular Marvel Universe, and fight super-villains just like their grown-up counterparts do, the kids from JL8 live the lives of ordinary kids, even if they do have superpowers and wear flashy costumes. Their days are filled with free reading, recess, and birthday parties, and yet these are the characters that you know and love, brilliantly and lovingly reinterpreted.
Little Bruce is undeniably the star. As you’d expect, he tends to be overly-serious, and never misses an opportunity to brood. But your heart will break for him when he drops his buddy Clark off at home. Also his reading of Sun Tzu leaves him ill-equipped to help Clark with his crush on Diana, or for Karen’s crush on him. Meanwhile, the Martian exchange student J’onn struggles to adapt to life on Earth, and finds Barry and Hal don’t make great role models.
Amid all these adorable goings-on, Stewart manages to take a couple of clever jabs at the over-designed costumes of the “New 52” as well as Power Girl’s boob window.
I don’t think I’m doing this strip justice. It’s difficult to describe it without making it sound overly cutesy and saccharine, but that’s absolutely not the case. This is without qualification the best webcomic I’ve come across in quite a while. My only complaint is that I don’t think tumblr, its original home, is a very good platform for webcomics. Fortunately, there is an alternate site that is much easier to navigate.
But don’t take my word for it. JL8‘s strip format makes for a breezy read. Give it a look, and within five to ten strips, I bet you’ll be hooked!