What is the Justice Machine?
by Dan Swanson
The Justice Machine is a fictional team of superheroes, originally created by Michael Gustovich and now owned by Mark Ellis, that appeared in comic-books from several small publishers in the 1980s and 1990s. Their longest sequence was with a company called Comico, including an introductory four-issue miniseries, Justice Machine featuring the Elementals (May to August, 1986) followed by an ongoing Justice Machine series that lasted twenty-nine issues (January, 1987 to May, 1989), plus a 1989 annual.
The stories that follow are based on the continuity established in the Comico series, though they all predate the stories published by Comico. Mark Ellis has recently released a new Justice Machine comic (check out http://justicemachine.com), in which he has established a new continuity; these stories might not match his new J.M. continuity.
Where does the Justice Machine come from?
In an alternate dimension to ours exists a world, in some ways very similar to Earth (in others, quite different), named Georwell. Georwell is the capital planet of a small interstellar empire, the Georwell Imperium. Though the Imperium comprises many species, it is ruled by humans. Georwell is the home of the Justice Machine, a government-sponsored team comprised of a number of beings with extraordinary skills and abilities.
The Georwell Imperium
There are dozens of planets in the Georwell Imperium. Many of these planets were brought into the Imperium though conquest; others have joined voluntarily. There are at least five non-human species known to the Imperium: Leonin (Lionheart’s species), Wolven (Feral’s species), Nahman, Rizzards, Puman (colloquially known as cat folks) and the G’faffwikoran, who live on gas giants. Though they were originally encountered by Georwell in separate star systems, the Leonin and Puman species are genetically related.
The Imperium is surrounded by a number of other interstellar realms. The largest of these is the Nahman Alliance. Opposite the Nahman Alliance, closer to the edge of the galaxy, Georwell borders on the Rim Worlds, a loose alliance of systems ruled by the Rizzards. A number of Rim Worlds have recently been annexed by the Imperium, and there is an uneasy treaty with what is left of the Rizzards’ Empire.
The Empire of Georwell gained complete control of the planet of Georwell after the annexation of Third Continent in 1394 Georwell (after the date Orge Georwell was proclaimed as the first Emperor of the Imperium), and immediately turned its attention toward interstellar conquest. In 1567, the neighboring planet of Beortsh became the first extra-solar vassel of the Imperium. Other conquests (the ones mentioned in these stories) include the Zheng Interstellar Kingdom in 1882, Erwhon in 1905, several of the Rim Worlds in 1961, Golding in the Wyndham system in 1966, Burgess in 1971, Kurrnegut in 1974, Siembieda in 1975, and Vogel in 1981.
Named planets in the Imperium include Georwell, Elothsigur, Pragasus 38, Kurrnegut, Erwhon, Golding, Siembieda, and Zamyatin (a gas giant).
Georwell is an oligarchy ruled by the Council of Nine, who have absolute power and are not hesitant to use it for their own benefits. The councillors are anonymous (they use holographic image inducers when they appear in public), and they are rumored to be immortal. The government controls virtually every aspect of everyday life.
Georwell is a fascist police state, but most of the population isn’t aware of it. The Georwellian Police (the Uncle Friendlies, usually shortened to Unfriendlies) are a branch of the military, and personnel readily rotate between active military duty and police duty. Advanced technology is used to monitor citizen activities, and executions for treason are not uncommon (after a well-publicized, widely broadcast fair trial, of course). Citizens are well-trained in accepting whatever the government tells them or does to them, and nobody worries about what sub-citizens think.
There are three classes, though the government only officially recognizes two: the governance class, citizens and sub-citizens. Citizens are encouraged to believe that they can become part of the government if they can qualify, and if they misbehave, they are threatened with having their citizenship stripped and becoming sub-citizens. Sub-cits are slaves at the pleasure, beck, and call of any citizen.
The seat of government of the Imperium is Council Central, a massive fortress set in Council Central Complex, which is located in the District of the Council, Martel sector of First Continent on Georwell.
There are two major avenues of advancement in Georwellian government: via merit and via assassination. In general, anyone who is foolish enough to be assassinated by a subordinate is perceived as having been unfit for the job anyway.
The first electronic computer on Georwell was built in 942. The Imperium achieved space travel capability in 1320 and faster-than-light capability in 1500. Technology available in the Imperium includes artificial gravity, highly advanced medical and biological techniques, faster-than-light engines, miniature computing/communication devices, food synthesizers, energy weapons, advanced robotics, holographic image inducers, and a transportation device called a dimensional lock, which offers instantaneous point-to-point travel as well as the capability to travel from one dimension to another.
The Georwellian Calendar started with year zero, on the twenty-seventh birthday of Orge Georwell the day he was crowned Emperor of Georwell (which, at the time, was about seven kingdoms). All books and other references to anything before that time have been systematically destroyed throughout history, and it is considered treasonous to talk, write, or even think about pre-history. Coincidentally, Georwell’s year is virtually identical in length to an Earth year, although a Georwellian day is about twenty-seven hours long. In another astounding coincidence, the Georwellian year zero happened at the same time that the Gregorian Calendar year zero happened, so Georwellian years correspond directly with Earth years.
The dominant language on Georwell, and throughout the Georwellian Imperium, is English. Combined with the unlikely correspondence of the calendars, Georwell Research Central posits some kind of cross-dimensional leakage between Georwell and Earth. Georwellians use familiar English terms, though the physical Georwellian equivalents may be a little different.
For example, the slang for money is bucks, even though they don’t use dollars. A breakfast might consist of steak, eggs, potatoes, toast, pastry, and hot chocolate, even though the steak comes from something that looks like a giant purple land-going octopus, the eggs are harvested from the ocean bottom like scallops, the potatoes are the hanging fruit of something that looks like a hemlock tree but that is actually a kind of animal, and the hot chocolate is totally synthesized. At least the bread and pastry are made from flour, the ground-up seeds of a grain plant. But if you were to order a Georwellian breakfast, you would recognize and enjoy the food.
Check out the Georwell Timeline for a really brief overview of Georwellian history. Note that there are spoilers in the timeline.
- Georwell has three continents named First, Second, and Third Continents, plus one very large island named Euve. Each of the continents is totally buried beneath a single great city. The Empire of Georwell began on First Continent.
- Each continent-spanning city is divided into smaller districts. In most cases, these districts are named after cities that stood on these locations earlier (such as Martel, Tull City, Vanguard City-Plex, Astro City) or the function of the district (D.C. — the District of the Council).
- First and Second Continents come very close together. At one point they were separated by a channel, much like the English Channel. Martel is on one side of the channel and Tull City the other.
- Three moons circle Georwell. The largest of these is circled by a very small moon of its own.
- Georwell City names: Alpadia, Martel, D.C. (District of the Council in Martel, the home of Council Central), Nakluna, Tull City, Vanguard City-Plex, Astro City District, Eclipse City, Salmagundi District, Focal District, Port Huxley.
- There is a space station in the Georwell star L5 point (about 100 million miles behind Georwell in the same orbit around the star) called the Penthouse. It is the vacation destination for Council Central members and their guests.
The Justice Machine
Justice Machine Featuring the Elementals takes place in 1983. It introduces The Demon War. An anti-government super-being named Darkforce used a teleportation device called a dimensional lock to unleash about a gazillion extradimensional demonic warriors on Georwell, hoping to use the power of the demons to topple the government. The Justice Machine, with the assistance of a super-team from Earth called the Elementals (who had been accidentally drawn to Georwell by a magical spell cast by a sorcerer named Tarot) stopped the invasion. The Elementals were able to see the Georwellian government for what it really was, and they were able to convince the Justice Machine to start questioning their cause and the government they served.
In the Elementals story, and the following Comico run, we learn that the Justice Machine has a long history — at least fifty years — and that the current leader, Jaiime Conrad, AKA Challenger, has been in Justice Machine for at least twenty-five years. There have been dozens of heroes in the Justice Machine over the years. You can see a list of some of these heroes here: the Justice Machine Rosters. And we learn more about Georwell, until the Justice Machine is shunted through a dimensional lock to Earth.
All the stories that follow occur before the Elementals story, revealing some of the storied history of the fabulous Justice Machine. You don’t need to have read the Justice Machine comics to enjoy these stories — you’ll pick up on the heroes, their names and powers, and a little about their personalities as you go.