Some 30 years after their birth (and 20 after their “demise”) The Justice Machine, one of the most popular Independent comicbook superhero teams of the 1980s, is poised for a very dramatic return to public consciousness. According to Mark Ellis (who — after joining the title as a writer in 1989 when the book was being published by Innovation — wound up purchasing the property from owner Mike Gustovich) he has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the super team back in the form of a 100 page full color graphic novel. Ellis stated that “…This book was initially intended as a miniseries published by Moonstone Books, but due to financial hardships, the project was delayed so many times the contract I had with the publisher expired…” Rather than renew the contract, Ellis decided the best route was in the form of self-publishing.
In the upcoming graphic novel, The Justice Machine: Object of Power, the popular super team leaps into a nightmarish landscape of twin realities that are sparring for ascendancy. In the book, The Machine faces off against the dark destiny that awaits all humanity if they lose the battle to stop their deadliest foes from regaining a foothold to the future. The graphic novel itself showcases the exciting return these superheroes to the present age of comics. By utilizing Kickstarter to fund the project, Ellis is tapping into his very vocal fan base to revive these well-loved characters. “The funds we raise on Kickstarter will pay the talented creators for their work, plus pay the letterer and go toward covering the production and printing costs” Ellis stated.
The original Justice Machine debuted in 1981 from Noble Comics and is perhaps best known for featuring an iconic cover by fan favorite John Byrne, who was seducing fandom with his work on Marvel’s X-Men. The series related the adventures the six super-powered members of a law enforcement agency from the planet Georwell — an alternate Earth — when they had been branded traitors. The team then fled through an inter-dimensional doorway to Earth only to discover that they had been cast in the roles of reluctant heroes. That initial series only lasted six issues, but it managed to garner a great deal of attention due to the artistic contributions of “name” artists, including, not only the afore-mentioned Byrne, but Bill Willingham, Mike Grell, Joe Rubinstein, and Jack “King” Kirby.
The Machine made their next appearance in 1985 in The Justice Machine Source Book which was produced for the Heroes Unlimited role-playing game, making them the very first comicbook super team to cross over into the burgeoning game market. The comicbook adventures of the team continued in ‘86 when Comico published The Justice Machine Featuring The Elementals four-issue series. From that mini-series, The Justice Machine went on to last a very respectable 30 issues, becoming one of the company’s flagship titles, not to mention one of the era’s top-selling independently published comics.
When Comico suffered financial problems in ‘89, Innovation stepped in and picked up the title, reintroducing the group in a three-issue mini-series as The New Justice Machine, immediately spinning it into a full-fledged series, which is where Ellis and artist Darryl Banks joined the creative team. The pair determined to streamline the title; scaling back some of the Comico run complicated storylines. From Innovation, the series eventually moved over to Millennium Publications (was head writer/editor) which produced only a pair of issues prior to the great comic market crash of ‘93. Banks went over to work on Green Lantern at DC while Ellis decided to focus on becoming a novelist. During the 15 years that followed Ellis penned a number of novels in The Executioner and Deathlands series as well as created the best-selling Outlanders series.
Around 2008 or so a revival in interest in the Justice Machine started and determined that he would re-launch the characters with a compilation volume. The initial plan for the re-launch was for a three-issue miniseries and a “Reintroductory” special, and was initially scheduled for the Fall of 2011 (the 30th anniversary of the team’s debut), only that never quite happened. Well, unwilling to let all of their work go to waste, Ellis fell back on the old saw, “If you want something done right—do it yourself” and began plans for self-publishing. With the artwork for The Justice Machine: Object of Power complete — all he needs to do now is finish the lettering and prepare it for the printer.
Ellis has promised that fans of the original Justice Machine, that this isn’t a reboot, and that the team’s classic origin and back story remains intact. He feels that, “…the characters and concepts [are] too unique to have done that, but we’ll provide enough history in the graphic novel so new readers won’t be lost and veteran fans will be satisfied.”
Having said all of that, Ellis is now ramping up the early days of his campaign to get his beloved heroes back into print, and — through the Kickstarter campaign — is offering some truly great prizes for people who pledge their support, including sets of “Classic” Justice Machine wallpapers, beautiful posters and prints, as well as signed copies of The Justice Machine: High Gear Edition Volume 2reprint edition. So if you are a fan of any of the earlier runs of these truly unique characters, are a fan of Indie comics, or are looking for a great new diversion, then you are going to want to log into The Justice Machine Kickstarter page and join the fun, already in progress.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.