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Comic Book / Grant Morrison's JLA

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A 1997 relaunch of DC’s premier superhero team.

After several years of roster changes, tone shifts, a brief, successful foray into comedy and a hard turn into the Darker and Edgier 90s that left it in the middle of a massive Dork Age, DC decided to clear house and return to a “back-to-basics” approach to the Justice League under the pen of Grant Morrison. Following off of a three-issue miniseries written by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza titled Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare, Morrison and artist Howard Porter relaunched the book under the title JLA, establishing a new roster consisting of the iconic seven founders of the team or their successors: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter.

A critical and commercial success, JLA established the League as a force united to face threats on an Earth-shattering level and subsequently revamped several classic villains such as Starro, the Crime Syndicate, the Injustice Gang, Darkseid, and more to raise the stakes in every issue. Morrison stayed with the book until issue #41 (aside from a few fill-in issues by Waid and other writers), bringing their Myth Arc to an end with the World War III storyline that saw every human being on earth imbued with superpowers and inducted into the League to combat an Old God weapon. Other writers would take over and the series would run for over a hundred issues, but the Justice League would continue to be defined by its core “magnificent seven” roster, potentially universe-ending threats and keeping its status as DC’s flagship title.


This series served as the primary inspiration for the animated Justice League, which took a similar approach to restructuring the League for a new generation after the team had been linked for decades to the Lighter and Softer Superfriends.

Storylines in this run that have their own pages:

This work provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Though the series was released in 1997, Superman is still rocking his mullet (pictured above) from the end of The Death of Superman at the start of the series. After ditching it in favor of his “Electric Blue” costume, he returns to his more classic short crop.note 
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  • '90s Anti-Hero: The Ultramarines, superhuman government mooks ordered to fight and take down the JLA. They end up subject to a Deconstruction as they partake in the morally questionable strategy of locking down a civilian-inhabited area to fight the Justice League in and eventually undergo a bad Heel Realization when they notice that while they're busy trashing the place trying to take down the League, their enemy was too busy saving people in the crossfire to retaliate. Not only that, but Superman scans their physiologies and discovers that all of their days are numbered due to the experimentation that gave them their powers. They're just as quickly reconstructed as they maintain their anti-hero tendencies by promising Superman that they'll do "what [the League] can't," but whatever they are intending to do, it has Superman and the League's full blessing and the two teams end their confrontation as full allies.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The last shot of Morrison's run is the League heading off to stop another villain.
  • Arc Welding:
    • The "Crisis Times Five" arc reveals that Mr. Mxzytplk isn't the only denizen of the Fifth Dimension to interact with the heroes of the DCU, as the arc retconned that Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt and Quisp, a minor Aquaman character, also hail from there with the Thunderbolt's summoning word "Cei-U" (pronounced "say you") revealed to actually be his name, "Zy", backwards and "Quisp" modified to "Qwsp". Grant Morrison's Batman added to this by revealing Bat-Mite is also from the Fifth Dimension.
    • The "World War 3" arc that served as the finale for Morrison's run also served as a Fully Absorbed Finale for Aztek, revealing that the "Tezcatlipoca" Aztek preparing for was, in fact, the Old Gods' weapon Mageddon, not the Wonder Woman villain.
    • The Martian Still Zone, the Kryptonian Phantom Zone, and the Biblical Limbo are all the same place.
  • Arc Words: In the "Imaginary Stories" arc, the JLA begin to realize they are in a Lotus-Eater Machine whenever someone mentions a key.
  • Amazon Chaser: Zauriel can't help but marvel at how strong and hot Wonder Woman is. This is all superficial since he's a Fallen Angel because of a human woman he fell in love with.
  • Bad Future: Rock of Ages features one where Darkseid rules Earth.
  • Bash Brothers: Despite some sniping early on, Wally West and Kyle Rayner become this much like their predecessors were in the original League.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Basically every issue.
  • Bookends: A Midsummer's Nightmare, the miniseries that set-up the run saw the Big Seven deal with (an enslaved) Dr. Destiny. While Mark Waid would ignore it in favor of presenting JLA #50note  as the first time since the mini they met, Morrison ends his run with Oracle informing the Big Seven that Dr. Destiny was stirring up trouble and them heading off to stop him.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: J'emm, an obscure character created as an expy for J'onn, ends up like this to act as J'onn's counterpart in Lex Luthor's first Injustice Gang.
  • Chekhov's Gun: As detailed in Meta Origin, the White Martians reveal that humanity was destined to become a race of superpowered beings much like Kryptonians or Daxamites, but their genetic experiments disrupted this evolutionary chain, resulting in most of humanity being regular people with only a minority holding the metagene. This becomes important in "World War III", when the Justice League temporarily imbues humanity with the powers they were meant to have and thus raise an army of superhumans to fight Mageddon.
  • The Comically Serious: Despite all appearances, Batman isn't this and has a rather sardonic sense of humor. However, when Orion of the New Gods (and to a lesser extent, his fellow New God Barda) joins the team he is constantly shown as stern and humorless around more humorous figures like Flash, Green Lantern and Plastic Man.
  • Continuity Nod: JLA was always forced to adhere to the current DC status quo changes, resulting in stuff like Superman spending about three story arcs in his Superman Blue form, Wonder Woman briefly dying and being replaced by her mother, and Wally West seemingly being dead and replaced by a Dark Flash.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • Between the events of DC One Million and the "World War 3" arc, the Martian Manhunter officially took a sabbatical from the League because of the events of the former with the third Hourman filling up. Mark Millar, Mark Waid, and J.M. DeMatteis were all willing to ignore this when they guest wrote. Issue 27, written by Millar, is the biggest offender as J'onn was meeting with Superman and Batman to discuss what Hourman told the League about the then-upcoming events of "Crisis Times Five" when he arrived.
    • The Corinthian's skull can be seen in Dream's chest. This is in spite of the fact that his predecessor used said skull to recreate the creature.
    • Subject to a third one as Mark Waid's run saw issue #50 be the first time since A Midsummer's Nightmare the JLA confronted Dr. Destiny—which ignored the And the Adventure Continues ending of Morrison's run of the big seven heading off to fight John Dee.
  • Death Is Cheap: Lampshaded when Superman sees the only ones attending Metamorpho's funeral are himself, Sapphire Stagg, her and Rex's son Joseph, and Java with the priest pointing out this trope as to the low attendance. To hammer the point home that some people stay dead, statues of Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, Ice, and the majority of the Justice Society of America were shown and the same issue saw the debut — and death — of Tomorrow Woman. History ultimately proved the priest right — neither Metamorpho nor Tomorrow Woman — nor Ice, Ollie, Hal, Barry, or even original Hourman Rex Tyler stayed dead.
  • Deus ex Machina: Prometheus would've likely managed to succeed in claiming victory over the League if it weren't for Catwoman sneaking into the Watchtower to steal some alien jewelry from its trophy room. None of the League seems really surprised by her presence and even she lampshades how incredibly lucky they were that a supervillain on mostly friendly terms with (one of) them was around to bypass Prometheus's ability to defeat all superheroes.
  • The Dreaded: Plastic Man uses criminals' fear of Batman to scare a prison riot into dispersing by shapeshifting into a Batman silhouette.
  • Dream Team: The iconic "magnificent seven" incarnation, which has served as the basis for every Justice League roster since and been the subject of parody and homage whenever someone wants to depict a superhero team.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The League face several:
    • The Star Conqueror is reimagined as this.
    • Solaris, the Tyrant Sun.
    • Mageddon
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Mirror Master only works for whoever pays the most. Batman outbids Lex Luthor and hires Mirror Master as The Mole, a move his peers question the morality of. Batman counters that in spite of engaging in bribery, Mirror Master ultimately donates the majority of his earnings to the orphanage he grew up in.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • During the Injustice Gang's attack on Star City, several people (including children) were killed. After the Joker reveals he rigged the coffins of the children with explosives, Luthor backhands him and expresses regret over their deaths. During the Joker's J'onn-induced "My God, What Have I Done?" moment, he manipulates the Joker into resurrecting those killed with the Worlogog and Superman sees through Luthor's reasoning of simply avoid murder charges to realize that Luthor felt guilty.
    • In a twisted example, T.O. Morrow, who decided to inform the JLA about a deactivated Amazo to shut Ivo up about escaping, decides to not entirely be truthful about when the android would come online as he didn't want to be seen as helping the League, resulting in a fight between the League and Amazo.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • The Crime Syndicate of Amerika, champions (overlords) of Earth-Three.
    • Prometheus to Batman, sharing a similar backstory but this time his parents were criminals who were gunned down by policemen.
  • Expy Coexistence: Zauriel is a rather transparent stand-in for Hawkman which gets lampshaded to hell at back by the other Leaguers, with Aquaman confusing him for Katar Hol for a minute and Superman telling him that his membership will fill out the obligatory "guy with big wings" quota.
  • Fallen Angel: Zauriel has given up Heaven after falling in love with a human woman, making him a positive example of this. The angel sent after him, Asmodel, is a much straighter example of this trope, planning to succeed where Lucifer failed and being sent to Hell after his defeat at the hands of the League.
  • Fingore: While attention isn't called to it, looking closely reveals that the Batman of "Rock of Ages"'s Bad Future is missing bits of some of his fingers.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: After Aztek ended, Morrison had Aztek join the team for a while, then used the finale to wrap up his story.
  • Fusion Dance: How Lkz is defeated, by being forcibly merged with Johnny Thunder's genie Yz into Ylzkz.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Zauriel brings the armies of Heaven to Earth to help repel Mageddon.
  • Hate Plague: Part of how much of a danger Mageddon is to the Earth is how it manipulates its populace to turn on each other, driving humanity to the brink of World War III until Zauriel and the armies of Heaven manage to stop the world's leaders from sending nukes at each other.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Aquaman can talk to fish via telepathy. So, to compensate for being far away from seawater and ocean life, Aquaman uses his telepathy on the part of a Hyperclan member's brain inherited from his marine ancestors to give him a seizure.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tomorrow Woman. Aztek.
  • Humble Hero: Superman is repeatedly affable and denies that he is as special or The Cape as everyone claims he is. As The Flash puts it:
    "This is the guy who said he couldn't live up to his own myth. And he's wrestling with an angel."
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The issue guest-written by Justice League International writer J.M. DeMatteis that deals with the aftermath of Day of Judgment (which saw Hal Jordan become the host for the Spectre), after the Spectre and League leaves his mind, the Joker chalks up his end of the experience (namely feeling a bunch of people shifting around in his head) to eating a man's tongue raw.
  • Kryptonite Factor:
    • Batman deduces the Hyperclan’s true identities when they refuse to check the wreckage of his crashed Batwing. Seeing the super-beings recoil from something as mundane as fire leads him to realize that they’re actually Martians.
    • The Hyperclan subdue Superman with a piece of Kryptonite. Once they’re revealed to be White Martians mentally projecting the image of Kryptonite into Superman’s head he breaks out and lays down a Curb-Stomp Battle on the aliens.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Zauriel was created and introduced to be a stand-in for Hawkman, who at the time was off-limits due to his infamous case of Continuity Snarl. However, Morrison and company still managed to make a wink to Hawkman by showing Aquaman briefly confusing Zauriel for Katar Hol.
  • Legacy Character:
    • Wally West and Kyle Rayner were chosen to be a part of the League's most iconic lineup due to their predecessors either being dead or having turned to villainy, respectively at the time.
    • The original Green Arrow's son Connor Hawke takes his (also at the time) deceased father's place in the League just as the Key attacks. The issue shows the stark differences between father and son, with Connor forced to use Ollie's more outlandish trick arrows after his quiver is destroyed.
    • Steel was one of four replacement Supermen to appear following the The Death of Superman and joins the League due to his impressive engineering acumen.
  • Legion of Doom: The Injustice Gang serves as the primary antagonists of the “Rock of Ages” arc until Darkseid shows up. As the League has been returned to a “back-to-basics” approach the Gang similarly institutes an “arch-enemies only” rule amongst its membership. The new Injustice Gang and their counterparts are:
    • Lex Luthor (Superman)
    • The Joker (Batman)
    • Circe (Wonder Woman)
    • Mirror Master (The Flash)
    • Doctor Light (Green Lantern)
    • Ocean Master (Aquaman)
    • Son of Saturn (Martian Manhunter)
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Averted at first, with the team being a not-unreasonable squad of seven. It’s after the events of Rock of Ages that the League expands, settling on a roster of 14 heroes.
  • Lonely Funeral: As noted under "Death is Cheap", because of the very nature of death in the comics, the only people attending Metamorpho's funeral were Superman, Rex's family, Java, and the preacher.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Key, upon his return, traps the JLA in a computer program that makes them live through Elseworld scenarios.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The JLA goes on full alert when they discover that the Shaggyman has been removed from his prison.
  • The Mole: Batman has three in Luthor's first Injustice Gang: the Mirror Master, via outbidding Luthor; Green Arrow, who feigns defection after a meeting with Circe; and Plastic Man, who captures and impersonates the Joker.
  • Meta Origin: The White Martian race studied humanity and performed experiments on them, changing their genetics, specially the nature of what would be the metagene. The group of renegades who did this (the Hyperclan) was imprisoned in the Still Zone as punishment. Had the White Martians not interfered with primitive humans, humanity would've evolved into a more uniformly powered race, much like Kryptonians and Daxamites did.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In the climax of "Rock of Ages", J'onn uses his powers to stabilize the Joker so he can't use the Philosopher's Stone to wreak havoc. While due to the nature of Joker's mind, J'onn can't keep it, during this time, the Joker regrets what he's done over his life.
  • Myth Arc: While the series cycles through a villain of the week premise, overall there is the impending danger of Mageddon's arrival into the DC Universe and Wonderworld's warnings to the JLA if it was to ever breach their defenses.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The "Rock of Ages" Bad Future is perpetuated by Superman destroying the Philosopher's Stone. With a powerful artifact such as it is out of the way, Darkseid and Apokolips found their window of opportunity to take over Earth.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Grant Morrison basically wrote Plastic Man as a superpowered Jim Carrey.
  • No-Sell: Circe gets fed up with Plastic Man and attempts to turn him into a pig and other assorted animals. Unfortunately, Plastic Man is a natural shapeshifter who can revert back and all this does is make him even hornier for her.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Of all the alterations Julian September makes to the timeline, Oracle finds the fact that Bruce Wayne's parents survived to be the most frightening. She's even reduced to a cowering mess when Bruce comes to visit with his folks, as she's unable to bear seeing people who should be dead and how different they might be. We never see them as the timeline is corrected just as Bruce is opening the door to her apartment.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: It turns out in the "Rock of Ages" Bad Future, Desaad is actually an older Batman, who doesn't specify what he did to Desaad other than he won a battle of wits with him.
  • Pet the Dog: Guy Gardner spends most of his appearances being the arrogant jerk that he is known for being, especially to Kyle Rayner, who he almost always lambasts for not being up to snuff as a Green Lantern. At the Darkest Hour however, Guy wholeheartedly tells Kyle to take a break and recollect himself, adding that Kyle really should stop taking him seriously.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The "Crisis Times Five" arc served as a lead-in for JSA.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • In the same that introduced Tomorrow Woman, Tommy Monaghan freely admits he only came to a JLA recruitment drive to check out Diana with his X-Ray Vision.
    • In an issue guest-written by Mark Waid, Plastic Man poses as a dress for Big Barda to wear—and promptly gets strangled by her when she realizes what happened.
  • Production Foreshadowing: Prevalent in Morrison's work:
    • Superman living in the sun until the 853rd century (as seen in DC One Million) is the character's ultimate fate in Morrison's All-Star Superman.
    • Everything in the Rock of Ages arc, from Darkseid turning Earth into a hellscape to a small collective of Leaguers fighting back would finally come to pass in Final Crisis.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: The infamous bit of both Batman and the Martian Manhunter knowing enough about Sailor Moon that the latter used Sailor Mars's real name "Rei Hiro" as the basis for an alternate identity and the former immediately knew that "Rei" was really J'onn? Granted, it was an issue guest written by Mark Millar, but it was published during this time.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • As Superman forewarned, the Hyperclan's ecological and environmental alterations to the Earth are at best temporary and worst unstable. Sure enough, the lush jungle the Hyperclan create in the Sahara eventually withers away due to the incompatibility.
    • Hector Hammond is portrayed here as being extremely fragile, as one wrong move could cause his oversized head to snap his neck.
  • Reality Warper:
    • The Philosopher's Stone is a compression of all of creation into miniature crystalline form, allowing anybody who wields it to manipulate reality the way they see fit.
    • Julian September invents the Engine of Chance, which allows him to manipulate reality by altering probability enough to be in his favor.
    • The Joker is given free reign to manipulate the environment of a satellite Superman and Martian Manhunter are lured to, turning it into an Mind Screw physical representation of his unstable mind.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: Though Status Quo Is God was in effect for the members of the League themselves, many of the team's most iconic villains were reimagined from their usually goofy Silver Age incarnations into terrifying threats capable of taking on the world's greatest superheroes:
    • Starro (the League's original villain) goes from a giant starfish to a true Starfish Alien, being a continent-sized Eldritch Abomination that spawns countless probes to attach themselves to the face of any individual. This becomes especially horrifying when it happens to someone like the Flash, who essentially becomes a super-speed zombie under the Star Conqueror's control.
    • The Crime Syndicate Took a Level in Badass similar to the League from their original "what if the Justice League were bad guys" incarnation, becoming the overlords of an entire world built on the concept of "evil always wins." It's notable in that though J'onn and Arthur lay a Curb-Stomp Battle on the Syndicate when they arrive on Earth, they still don't lose in the end as they must remain in the Antimatter Universe to maintain the status quo.
    • The various Injustice League/Gangs over the years have typically had an odd assortment of supervillains chosen to plague the League in standard "one-on-one" fights that lack any real tactical prowess. Luthor founds his "archenemies only" incarnation and launches an attack that involves discrediting the League and tearing them apart from within along with using a stone that can literally rewrite reality to his wishes.
    • The Key goes from an Intergang scientist in a robe to a dream manipulator with Super Intelligence capable of locking the Justice League inside their own minds. It's only due to the out of nowhere appearance of Green Arrow literally sucker punching him with his late father's boxing glove arrow that stops the Key from obtaining omnipotence.
    • The original Queen Bee was a standard alien invader from a bee-themed Planet of Hats who was disgarded in the 80s for her human mind-controlling counterpart. She returns as part of Luthor's revamped Injustice Gang as the ruler of a race of superhuman insectoids.
    • The Shaggy Man was always an "all-hands-on-deck" level threat for the League, but his sasquatch-esque appearance was more than a little goofy. Here, he's just a shell for General Eiling, who decides to put his brilliant tactical mind into the body of the beast. It basically makes him (renamed the General) a remorseless Superman with the strategic mind of Batman.
  • Rule of Cool: Much of the series is really just the Justice League kicking the collective asses of the villain(s) of the week.
  • Sadistic Choice: Zauriel and Alan Scott try to call on The Spectre for aid, but someone had imprisoned him in a world teeming with developing life. Whoever had made the prison made it so whoever wanted to free The Spectre would have to commit mass genocide do to so. They technically do, as Alan uses the Green Flame to accelerate the world's time so it reaches its apocalypse within minutes.
  • Superior Successor: Daniel Hall assures Kyle Rayner that he will surpass Hal Jordan on the basis that unlike him, Rayner is more open about his fears than Hal ever was.
  • Take That!:
    • Some of the people the Hyperclan kill are unmistakably Wolverine and Doctor Doom.
    • The Hyperclan themselves are an indictment of the '90s Anti-Hero; they are perfectly willing to kill and regularly defy Reed Richards Is Useless, but they are ultimately an invasion force brainwashing the masses with promises of paradise.
    • Kyle Rayner briefly criticizes the Darker and Edgier supervillains prevalent during the period JLA was being published, complaining about the decrease in bad guys who just want to rob jewel stores and the proportionate increase of villains who kill your girlfriend and stuff her into a refrigerator.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Hyperclan pay Batman no mind because they assume that by being the only non-powered member of the League, he is the weakest. Unfortunately, Batman is, as Superman describes him, "the most dangerous man on Earth."
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
    • Or rather "Girl" in Huntress's case, as Batman had Huntress join the League to curb her more violent tendencies and kicked her off when he caught her about to kill Prometheus.
    • Circe suggests that Kyle and Connor only joined the League in search of father figures to please, and that their older teammates are using this to keep them pliable and compliant. Seeing as how Circe is evil, she's hardly a trustworthy judge of the situation: but there's enough truth in the first part of her suggestion to get under their skins.
  • World War III: Mageddon is causing this by affecting everyone's aggression levels to the point every almost country is going to war with each other. Hell, the arc it appears in is even called "World War III".
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Key knows that the Justice League will inevitably escape their Lotus-Eater Machine and is counting on the mental energy required to do so to power his plan to achieve omnipotence.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The Hyperclan keeps Superman incapacitated with a chunk of Kryptonite. However, he deduces that it's only an illusion and all the Kryptonite poisoning symptoms he's experiencing are all fake when he notices that he's way past the point when he should be dead already and can hear air raid sirens all over the globe.

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