I always wondered why there were so many leagues

I wasn’t a big Justice League of America fan growing up, mainly because I didn’t read any of the comics. I don’t think they were especially sparse over here in the UK, but I don’t recall seeing them on the shelves of newsagents as an adolescent in search of superheroes. Or maybe it was the ‘America’ in the title – how relevant was that?

I got into the Justice League with the hilarious Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Bwa-Ha-Ha version. I like funny, and this was just lovely, with a delightful silliness and perfect art to match. This became Justice League International, and Justice League Europe, and then there was the annual of Justice League Antarctica, and there was Justice League Task Force, there is the recent Justice League Elite, not to mention the Justice Leagues of Aliens, Amazons, Arkham and Atlantis in a fifth-week event. That’s a lot of leagues.

Basically, what I’m trying to point out is that the word ‘league’ is one that I associate with superhero comics because it is used so often. This makes sense; the word is defined by the OED as ‘a collection of people, countries, or groups that combine for mutual protection or cooperation’. So, I was amused and surprised by seeing it in a non-superhero setting connected to part of my day job. The word ‘league’, it seems, is equally popular in the real world.

A quick search based on the my work-related discovery returned some groups that sounded strange to my ears:

  • The League Against Cancer (and its junior team, the Student League Against Cancer)
  • The League Against AIDS
  • The World Hypertension League
  • The International League Against Rheumatism
  • The International League Against Epilepsy
  • The Mediterranean League Against Thrombolic Diseases
  • The Pan American League of Associations for Rheumatology

Spread the net a little further and you get:

  • League Against Cruel Sports
  • World Hypertension League
  • Jewish Defense League
  • War Resisters League

However, my personal favourites were:

  • The French National League against Venereal Diseases (how appropriate?)
  • League Against Intoxicants (which seems like an easy enemy to pick …)

And these were just the ones that I found by a quick search on the web. How many more organisations exist with ‘league’ in their title and no web presence? Now, I’m sure that all these very serious, august bodies are noble, and the causes they strive against or for are worthwhile; I just can’t get the superhero association out of my head. I almost imagine a global crossover, with all these leagues fighting against all their listed enemies – it would make for great entertainment …

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