Franchise: Justice League of America
" The League leads. When there is a Crisis, the other heroes — and the world — look to us first to deal with it, to rally others. We set the example."The Super Team
Composed (usually) of the heavy hitters of The DCU
, the Justice League has been around in one form or another since The Silver Age of Comic Books
, and doesn't show any sign of going away. The team debuted in The Brave and the Bold
#28 (February-March, 1960), created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky. Their appearances in three consecutive issues of The Brave and the Bold
served as a trial run. The concept sold well and the team graduated to its first eponymous title by October, 1960.
The original lineup is Superman
, Wonder Woman
, Green Lantern
, The Flash
, and the Martian Manhunter
(commonly known as the "Magnificent Seven" or just the "big seven", and considered the greatest heroes on Earth by pretty much the entire superhero community). Which almost immediately (6 issues later) started to gradually expand to include Green Arrow
, The Atom
, Black Canary
, The Phantom Stranger
, Elongated Man
, Red Tornado
and, finally, Firestorm
. After that, the group has repeatedly disassembled and reassembled, sometimes with drastic membership changes, including a revival of the original seven. Basically, every DC Comics
superhero who didn't belong to another team (and a few who did) was a member at one time or another (and even an entire team of non-DC superheroes!
). And as the premier group of heroes in the DCU, when a cosmic crisis threatens, every superhero available
becomes a temporary member of the JLA, such is the importance of the group.
After Mark Waid
and Grant Morrison
's revival, the originals are considered the "Big Seven", and cover the archetypes any superhero team should possess (classical superhero, dark vigilante, fantasy/mythological being, speedster, elemental hero, cosmic hero, psychic).
Originally, they were the local crime-fighting club, composed of the best of the best. They were effectively a "social club" for superheroes, where they could hang out with similar people (when not fighting evil). There was no set leader, though certain heroes (such as Superman, Batman or the Martian Manhunter) often ended up taking leadership roles due to their popularity and skill. New members were chosen by voting, which might explain why several heroes that felt rather redundant were added to the roster. They had a series of special bases over the years,
most notably a satellite headquarters in orbit above the Earth.
In the 80's, DC's editorial team noticed that they were being outsold by the Teen Titans and the X-Men
, more action-oriented, character-driven teams. So, suddenly
, Aquaman gave a big speech about how the team couldn't depend on heroes who were too busy to show up all the time, and reformed the team with a bunch of second-stringers and a few new characters. They operated out of a warehouse in Detroit (for which they got the Fan Nickname
"Justice League Detroit"). For this reason they were a little ineffectual during Crisis on Infinite Earths
As a result of this, the team was retooled again in the '80s, becoming Justice League International (taking over the Global Guardians'
role, and adding in some of the latter group's members) which then split into Justice League America and Justice League Europe, which later (after their membership grew huge) further split into the Justice League Task Force (a "superhero school" led by the Martian Manhunter), and Extreme Justice
, which was led by the more proactive Captain Atom.
This approach fizzled after a few years, so DC took the team back to basics by reuniting the original Big Seven and giving them a lunar Watchtower base. The series was relaunched as JLA
by Grant Morrison
, who emphasized the team's role as the "gods" of the DCU, and had them only go up against the sort of tremendous, cosmic-level threats which befitted that stature. This new approach was such a hit that for several years pretty much all major events in the DCU revolved around the League, and countless miniseries and one-shots were spun off the new title. After Morrison left, succeeding writers (most notably Mark Waid) continued his approach.
The team has a long tradition of Crossovers
with the Justice Society of America
. Once labelled "Crisis on (Something)" fairly often; commonly takes place at a Christmas/Thanksgiving
dinner attended by both teams, when suddenly a villain attacks. This stopped happening regularly around 1986 with Crisis on Infinite Earths
, though the tradition has popped up sporadically since then (1998's "Crisis Times Five", 2002's JSA/JLA: Virtue and Vice
, 2007's "The Lightning Saga").
A film adaptation is in development for the DC Cinematic Universe
, with a projected release date of 2017.
Justice League media adaptations:Video GamesWestern Animation
Here are the different incarnations of the Justice League of America so far:
- The Original Big Seven (Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky): Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash II (Barry Allen), Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan), Aquaman & Martian Manhunter, based inside a hollow mountain, the "Secret Sanctuary." Later members included Green Arrow, The Atom II (Ray Palmer), Black Canary II and Hawkman. Snapper Carr served as the team mascot, or as an honorary member, depending on who you ask.
- The Post-Crisis/Year One League (Mark Waid): Like most things in the DCU, this was retconned after Crisis on Infinite Earths. In this version of the team's history, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were no longer founding members of the League, but Black Canary II was. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were restored as founding members; it's not entirely clear whether Black Canary remains as an eighth founder, or joined later as she did in the original continuity.
- The Satellite-Era League (Dennis O'Neil, Mike Friedrich, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart): Basically everyone mentioned above plus Elongated Man, Hawkgirl I, Firestorm I (Ronnie Raymond/Martin Stein), Red Tornado II, and Zatanna. Also Elongated Man's wife, Sue Dibny, sort of. The Martian Manhunter was absent for most of this era when it was originally printed, but seems to have been retconned back in. Also had stretches where Green Arrow and/or Batman had quit the team, but overall, the lineup was quite stable by today's standards. There were several honorary members of whom only one - the Phantom Stranger - actively participated in their cases on a semi-regular basis.
- Justice League Detroit (Gerry Conway): Four established JLAers (Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, and Zatanna), one previously-obscure character (Vixen), and three complete newcomers (Vibe, Gypsy, and Steel II - a Legacy Character of Commander Steel, not to be confused with John Henry Irons). Later on, Aquaman quit and Batman rejoined. Has its fans, but widely considered a Dork Age.
- Justice League/Justice League International (Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis): Created after the events of the Legends Crisis Crossover. Officially, started with a (probably editorially mandated) lineup of Batman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern III (Guy Gardner), Black Canary II, Captain Marvel, Dr. Light III (Kimiyo Hoshi), Blue Beetle II (Ted Kord), Mr. Miracle (with his 'manager', Oberon), and Doctor Fate II, a lineup that showed off the possibilities of the new continuity by featuring characters previously from four different Earths. The writers had different ideas; Doctor Light never actually joined (until much later) and Doctor Fate and Captain Marvel were gone within six issues, and the stories soon took on a generally humorous tone that did not, at first, sit well with some fans. Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Rocket Red #7 (Vladimir Mikoyan), Fire, and Ice were among the first of many to join as those same elements of humor quickly made the series a fan favorite. After the events of Invasion!, as well as the opening of Justice League Europe (see below), JLI was renamed "Justice League America" (no "of"). After Giffen and DeMatteis left the series following the "Breakdowns" arc, the series struggled along as writers such as Dan Jurgens, Dan Vado, and Gerard Jones tried to keep the book and its spin-offs afloat with little success.
- Justice League Europe (Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis): The Flash III (Wally West), Captain Atom, Rocket Red #4 (Dmitri Pushkin), Power Girl, Elongated Man, and Metamorpho (and Wonder Woman, who left after the first mission). Created after the Invasion! crossover. Subsequently joined by Crimson Fox, Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan), Dr. Light III (Kimiyo Hoshi) and Aquaman. Later renamed Justice League International, just to be confusing.
- Justice League Task Force (David Michelinie/Sal Velluto) Originally a rotating membership of whoever would be needed for a given mission. After Zero Hour, reinvented as the League "school" with the Martian Manhunter, the Ray, Triumph, Gypsy, and L-Ron in the body of Despero.
- The Justice League International was reformed in the 2010 bi-weekly series Justice League: Generation Lost in order to track down Max Lord. This version of the team featured Booster Gold (as team leader), Captain Atom, Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle III (Jaime Reyes), and a brand new Rocket Red (Gavril Ivanovich).
- The Post-Zero Hour League (Gerard Jones): Wonder Woman, the Flash III (Wally West), Hawkman III (Katar Hol ... sort of), Fire, Icemaiden (Sigrid Nansen), Nuklon, Obsidian, Blue Devil. The most radical reinvention of the Giffen/DeMatteis League, Zero Hour had all the teams disbanded, and Wonder Woman reinvent the League as a "superhero club", with an official membership of "anyone who's interested". Captain Atom decided the real Justice League ought to be better organized, but should have been careful what he wished for, because the result was...
- Extreme Justice (Dan Vado/Marc Campos): Captain Atom, Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond), Booster Gold, Blue Beetle II, Amazing Man II, Maxima. As if the "Extreme" in the name wasn't clue enough, this series was a massive Dork Age, with art and page layouts that severely aped the worst of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee's tendencies (overly muscular, unexpressive characters and "flip the comic sideways" pages) with a heavy emphasis on action over character dynamics.
- JLA (Grant Morrison/Howard Porter/Mark Waid/Joe Kelly/Doug Mahnke): Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash III (Wally West), Green Lantern V (Kyle Rayner), Aquaman, Martian Manhunter. In other words, the original seven (or rather, five of them and the then-current successors of the other two). Based on the Moon. Later included Steel III, Plastic Man, Oracle, Big Barda, Orion, Zauriel, Huntress, and, temporarily, Wonder Woman's mother Hippolyta instead of Diana. Main focus was the core seven (occasionally plus Plastic Man), though. Largely had to do with the idea that because the JLA is so powerful, they should be fighting harder villains than just super-terrorists. Very fondly remembered, even by those who hate everything else Grant Morrison has ever done.
- The Post-Infinite Crisis League (Brad Meltzer/Ed Benes/Dwayne McDuffie): Varied but seemed similar to the Satellite version, except they were now based in the Hall Of Justice. Started out with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern II/IV (either Hal or John Stewart), Vixen, Black Canary II, Red Tornado II, Black Lightning, Red Arrow, and Hawkgirl; Geo-Force was often pictured as part of this lineup, but he never actually joined, he just played a minor part in their first story arc.
- The Post-Final Crisis League (James Robinson/Mark Bagley): Spinning out of Robinson's Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries, the new team comprised Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan), the Atom II (Ray Palmer), Batman III (Dick Grayson), Mon-El, Donna Troy, Cyborg , Doctor Light III, Starfire, Congorilla, and the Guardian. Green Arrow, the main character in Cry For Justice, was a member for the first few issues, until certain events in Cry For Justice caught up with him.
- The Post-Blackest Night League (James Robinson/Mark Bagley): Robinson wasn't satisfied with the way his JLA was going; among other things he thought he had tried to put in too many characters. He reshuffled the roster and settled on Batman III (Dick Grayson), Supergirl, Donna Troy, Jade, Starman (Mikaal Thomas), Congorilla and Jesse Quick, thus making a somewhat rough second generation equivalent to the original team lineup.
- The New 52 League: This team is written by Geoff Johns and features the Big Seven, only with Cyborg replacing Martian Manhunter (who is in Stormwatch instead); in addition to these seven, the team is later bolstered by Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond/Jason Rusch), Element Woman, and a new version of the Atom (Rhonda Pineda), who eventually turns out to be Atomica of Earth 3, planted as a mole by the Outsider as part of his plan to bring the Crime Syndicate to Earth 0, which succeeds at the height of the Trinity War. Superman, Green Lantern, and the Flash are set to depart after Forever Evil; they will be replaced by Lex Luthor, Shazam, and Captain Cold, respectively.
- In addition, there was a new, separate Justice League International, written by Dan Jurgens, with Booster Gold as the team leader, Batman (Bruce Wayne), Green Lantern III (Guy Gardner), Fire, Ice, Vixen, Rocket Red, Godiva, and August General In Iron (a Chinese hero introduced in 52). Batwing, Blue Beetle III (Jaime Reyes) and the Olympian all joined over the course of the series.
- There's also the Justice League Dark, written by Peter Milligan, a team of supernatural heroes featuring John Constantine, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, Zatanna, and Shade, the Changing Man.
- With the cancellation of Justice League International, a new Justice League of America book was released in February 2013 by Geoff Johns and David Finch with an unexpected roster of Steve Trevor, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, the new Green Lantern (Simon Baz), Stargirl, Catwoman, Vibe, Green Arrow and Katana .
DC even has a Funny Animal
counterpart of the Justice League: the "Just'a Lotta Animals
" of Earth-C-Minus
, a parallel Earth that's a funny-animal counterpart of the mainstream DCU. The core roster of the "JLA" consists of:
- Super-Squirrel (a squirrel, counterpart of Superman)
- The Batmouse (a mouse, counterpart of Batman)
- Wonder Wabbit (a rabbit, counterpart of Wonder Woman)
- Green Lambkin (a male sheep, counterpart of the Silver Age Green Lantern)
- The Crash (a turtle, counterpart of the Silver Age Flash)
- Aquaduck (a duck, counterpart of Aquaman)
Other members included: Hawkmoose; Green Sparrow; Stacked Canary; the Martian Anteater; the Item (the Atom; an elephant); Zap-Panda (Zatanna); and Elongator (the Elongated Man; an alligator).
This series contains examples of:
- Alternate Company Equivalent: The Avengers
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: Batman and Hawkman are the most prolific but we also have Hawkwoman, Animal Man, Vixen, Black Canary, and Red Robin.
- This is also prevalent in enemies they have fought: Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd, B'Wana Beast, Starro, etc.
- Artifact Title: Partly. The Justice League of America tackles worldwide, universal, and even multiversal threats.
- Author Tract: James Robinson's run is rife with his views on other characters, such as Vixen being referred to as a pathetic knock-off of Animal Man. This culminates in the final issue before the New 52 reboot where he has various League members tear into some of the stuff mentioned about the reboot, including Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing again and the no-show of Donna Troy.
- Badass Crew: THE most Badass Crew in the DC Universe.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In Gardner Fox's stories, the Martian Manhunter was utilized as a stand-in for Superman due to Mort Weisinger insisting that the latter have limited use. After this limitation was appealed, Fox had gradually less use of J'onn. It didn't help that under Fox, J'onn's martian powers were severely underutilized (only being used nine times throughout Fox's reign as JLA writer). J'onn was finally dropped from the series when his comic was cancelled.
- Continuity Reboot:
- The Justice League originally started out as a full continuity reboot of the Justice Society of America. Editor Julius Schwartz changed the word "Society" into the word "League" because he thought the word "Society" sounded too much like a quiet club name. The original continuity of the Justice Society was shown to have taken place in an alternate universe which was given the name Earth-Two.
- After the reboot of the DC Universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Justice League actually continued onwards with its then in-progress storylines albeit with considerable changes to the history of the team.
- New 52 was a full reboot of the Justice League, the Justice League comic after the reboot was flashback to how the team was originally formed and the early adventures of the team.
- Covert Group: A covert ops group with technology-based powers working for the U.S. government tries to eliminate the world's superhumans.
- Cross Over: The crossover with The Avengers is the most famous but the team has also crossed over with the X-Men during All Access, a sequel to Marvel Vs. DC. They also had a crossover with the WildCATS before Wildstorm went to DC.
- Crossover Finale: The original volume ended with a Legends crossover, the JLI era effectively ended with a Bat Family Crossover called "Breakdowns," and the 1990s JLA era was basically written out with Identity Crisis. Big status quo changes tend to force a reboot of the JLA, really.
- Demoted to Extra: In the early adventures, Superman and Batman had limited roles due to Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, the editors of their respective comics at the time, not wanting to risk overexposure of the characters. In early 1962, when circulation of the JLA comic was beginning to die down, JLA editor Julius Schwartz and DC publisher Jack Liebowitz agreed that they need to give both characters more involving roles, on the basis that they belong to DC Comics and not Weisinger and Schiff.
- Dork Age: Invoked in-universe. During Morrison's run, Triumph's return is loaded with characters mocking him for his duration on the team, citing that it was loaded with "losers and also-rans" and the villains they fought were just terrorists and space maniacs. Triumph spends most of his time saying it's not fair that the current League got the glory, the better headquarters, and the better villains.
- Likewise, when Robinson's tenure on the League ended before the reboot, he made a dig against everyone who believed his run to be a Dork Age.
- Exact Words: In "For Sale — the Justice League!" (Vol. 1 No. 8), villain of the issue Pete Ricketts has the league under his control, and forbids them to use their own emergency signals in case Superman and Batman come back from their own mission. He didn't say not to use each other's signals, though.
- Flanderization: The Justice League in general occasionally suffers this problem. The heroes in their own books have multi-faceted personalities, while Justice League in the hands of sloppy writers reduces them to their most stereotypical natures, such as Batman being completely unfeeling and methodical, or Superman's "boy scout" persona. This is in part because each character was originally The Hero in their own titles. They weren't developed with a group dynamic in mind so some of their key character development has also come from them playing off of each other in the team books.
- I'm Crying But I Don't Know Why: In the Morrison run, after their attempt to conquer Earth fails when they are found vulnerable to fire, the fifty White Martians, face the Martian Manhunter. At the end, the narrator tell us of a man that, every morning just after awakening, feels like he had once incredible power that is forever lost. This feeling of loss and frustration is shared by other fifty humans scattered in the Earth, and is so big, he wants to cry. But he doesn't, because he is an adult and has no time for such nonsense. So he smiles, goes out and begins his working day as a fireman.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: It would be more difficult to name DC superheroes who weren't members of one version of the Justice League or another.
- Not Important to This Episode Camp: Early on, certain members of the League would be "tied up on urgent cases of their own" depending on the story.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: "Panic from a Blackmail Box", from JLA Vol. 1 #62, is essentially a crime drama with the JLA shoehorned in.
- The Paragons: There are many superhero teams in the DCU... but there's them, and there's The League. They are the greatest, most powerful and most admirable of them all. A hero making it into the Justice League basically graduated into hanging with the big boys.
- Phantom Zone: Grant Morrison's JLA introduces the Still Zone, where the League battle the White Martians and, later, Prometheus. According to these stories, the Still Zone (or, as Prometheus call it, the Ghost Zone), which the White Martians use in place of Hyperspace, is both the Phantom Zone and (according to the angel Zauriel) Limbo...and probably also the Stasis Zone that was at the time standing in for the Phantom Zone in M'Onel's origin and the Buffer Zone that Bgzltians phase into. A more recent story adds Epoch's "timeless void" and DC One Million's "tesseract space" to the list. And now, The Multiversity (Morrison's latest comic book epic) reveals that the Phantom Zone is actually The Underworld.
- Popularity Polynomial: By 1965, Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman were enjoying high sales in their main comics, so they became prominent in JLA stories, while Wonder Woman and the Atom would occasionally participate and Green Arrow, the Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman were frequently sent to Not Important to This Episode Camp due to the low sales of their own comics. Then Bat-Mania happened, and Batman became the main attraction.
- Rogues Gallery: Not only do the individual Rogues Galleries of the members antagonize them, but the team itself has its own unique rogues gallery, including Starro, Amazo and Despero.
- Sacrificial Planet: The various Justice League'' "Crisis" team-ups with the Justice Society occasionally used Earth-2 as a Sacrificial Planet in much the same way; at least two of the crossovers involved the temporary destruction of Earth-2 by some cosmic menace. Luckily, though, Status Quo Is God and the Reset Button kicked in by the end.
- Sealed Evil In A Six Pack: At one point, they trapped Doomsday within four teleporters on the mood, being unable to fully think enough to attempt an escape.
- Shout-Out: Grant Morrison's JLA:
- The Smurfette Principle: When the Justice League Of America started in 1960, Wonder Woman was the only female member, and though not necessarily the weakest, was certainly the most resembling. At least the early Gardner Fox stories treated her like the other members, and not like The Chick. Though she soon became the secretary at the JLA's meetings, taking minutes and so on. It took almost a decade before Black Canary became the second female member (and that was only after Wonder Woman had resigned; it would take several more years before there was more than one woman on the team).
- To add insult to injury, the JLA rejected a female member prior to letting Black Canary in: Hawkgirl was specifically disallowed, initially because the bylaws required they only let in one new member at a time, and they had just let in Hawkman. Later, she was kept out because her powers duplicated Hawkman's, so she brought nothing new to the table. Hawkman, of course, only has flight and scientific/detective skills (usually), thus is made completely redundant by Superman and Batman, but nobody moved to kick Hawkman out on these grounds. Hawkgirl was finally allowed in in the 70s, when the writers caught up with the sexual revolution.
- While we are on the subject of Justice League, the fact that movies starring male superheroes are being greenlit left and right, and Wonder Woman's own film used to be in Development Hell, has not gone unnoticed until Warner Bros announced that her solo film will be released on 2017 before the Justice League movie. Considering the runaway success of Supergirl, Barb Wire, and Catwoman, it isn't exactly surprising. But that in itself is a problem - a superhero movie that bombs is just that film's failure, but a superheroine movie that bombs makes movie execs fearful of ever making another one because they think that obviously superheroine movies don't make as much money.
- Spiritual Successor: Of the Justice Society of America.
- Super Cell Reception: The Super Buddies sent by Booster Gold to 'the deepest, darkest pits of Hell! (muahahaha!)' and are able to call their headquarters. It's lampshaded when Max Lord immediately demands to know what service they have.
- Starfish Alien: Starro is a Trope Codifier.
- West Coast Team: There was a Justice League International, a Justice League Europe, a Justice Black Ops group, and even an Antarctic League among many others (the page description has a fuller list).