DC Comics have been at it for quite some time. Many of the great iconic super-heroes of the twentieth century called DC Comics their home. As early as 1939 Superman had been leaping tall buildings and the ’40s when Batman started stalking through the night. Through various one-off crossovers and a few decades DC finally decided to bring their most popular heroes together. The Silver Age of comics gave birth to many amazing crossovers across the comic book industry and one of the big team events started it all in 1960’s The Brave And The Bold #28. It was here that the Justice League was born and since then they’ve had their highs and lows; but have always been a prevalent entity in comics. Lets take a look at the history of these “gods among us”.
The Brave and the Bold
As mentioned above, the Justice League first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #28. They were first teamed up together by writer Gardner Fox, who initially wrote for The Justice Society of America during the Golden Age of Comics. Editors needed a new team so Gardner went to work. Fascinated with Major League Baseball and the branding of it, he called the new team “The Justice League of America”. Their first appearance saw Starro, the telepathic giant alien starfish invading Earth, which drew the attention of the greatest protectors that the Earth had to offer: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman. This wasn’t however the first time the team had fought together. In Justice League of America #8 it was told in flashback that in order to fight back an alien invasion the team first banded together in order to face the Appelaxians. Because they could not fight the invading aliens individually, they banded together, forming the League. After this they would repeatedly come back together in order to beat back interstellar and world shaking threats . It was then that the Justice League were cemented into place in the DC Universe. Since that time, members of the League have come and gone, reboots have happened, but as far as the comics are concerned, the fan base has always received the next chapter of the story with open arms.
The End of the Justice League of America
The original Justice League of America run saw the team change almost immediately. Green Arrow would join, and Wonder Woman would leave; The Atom would enter whilst Martian Manhunter said goodbye. Sometimes they would team up with the Justice Society of America, and other times they would fight alone. Their secret headquarters at Happy Harbour was exposed so they created the Watchtower, an orbital satellite allowing them to monitor the planet from above. Later, in order to capitalize on the popularity of teen based super-teams, the original team was disbanded by Aquaman after a devastating loss. He mandated that only those heroes who could dedicate themselves full time could join the League. At this time Vixen, Steel, Gyspy and Vibe entered the scene. However, it didn’t last long when in the ’80s during the DC Legends miniseries Vibe and Steel were murdered and the Justice League of America comics run was ended.
Crisis On Infinite Earths
The DC Multiverse at this time was convoluted and hard to understand for newcomers to the DC Universe. Writer Marv Wolfman set out to streamline the multiverse by writing a 16-issue crossover titled Crisis On Infinite Earths. It saw the re-teaming of the original seven members of the Justice League when the Anti-Monitor began destroying various Earths in the Multiverse. This crossover event saw the defeat of the Anti-Monitor at the cost of many, most noteworthy being The Flash (Barry Allen), and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El). After the battle with the Anti-Monitor, only one Earth remained, creating one singular and streamlined universe. The DCU was rebooted at this time.
Justice League International
At this time, the editors at DC wanted the return of the Justice League, but with less focus on the “America” portion. They aimed for a more worldwide roster; and thus Justice League International was born. The writers at this time, Keith Griffin and J. M. Dematteis, added a very fun and humorous tone to the stories, which proved very popular. The team consisted of Batman, Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel (Shazam), Doctor Light, Doctor Fate, Martian Manhunter, Mister Miracle, and Green Lantern (Guy Gardner). Soon after many more were added to the team such as Booster Gold and Captain Atom. Griffin and Dematteis ended their five year run with the Breakdowns story-line, which put a nice bookend on this period of the League. DC would try spin-offs such as Justice League Europe, Extreme Justice, and Justice League Task Force; but they all ultimately failed to receive outstanding fan reactions and was cancelled.
Enter Grant Morrison. Right after the original team was brought back together in Mark Waid’s Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare, Grant Morrison set out to bring back some of the old charm that the Justice League had to it, and legitimize the reasons some of the heroes were on the Justice League (like Batman). Morrison’s run was titled JLA and saw the team initially consist of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter. He introduced new villians such as White Martians and the Injustice Gang. The team members who inevitably replaced the old ones were unique to previous incarnations; featuring Plastic Man, Big Barda, Oracle (Barbara Gordon), and Huntress. Morrison saw the JLA as more of a pantheon of gods and wanted to represent them that way. During Infinite Crisis however, the leader at the time, Green Arrow, failed to keep the team together, and they were disbanded. Throughout the years following the team would continue to reform and disband. In the late 2000s Brad Meltzers run saw Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman reforming the Justice League once again with another varied roster, including ones such as Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Black Lightning, and Vixen. This ran in one form or another through Blackest Night and 52 until the next reboot.
The New 52
In 2011 The Flashpoint Paradox was released where Barry Allen the Flash (who had returned from the dead in Final Crisis years prior), accidentally changed the timeline, and upon fixing it the New 52 universe was born. Every DC title went back to #1, and all heroes and their respective teams were rebooted. DC’s Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints were somewhat integrated into DC proper and everything began anew. Initially fan reception was mixed; characters like Batman who stayed mostly the same had a really good run in the New 52, but characters like Superman received a change in characterization that not all were on board for. Basically some series were successful and some weren’t. The Justice League’s run remained fairly strong all the way to end. Similar to past Leagues, the line-up consisted of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Flash (Barry Allen), Cyborg, and Aquaman. Instead of fighting Starro right off the mark, the team sort of slowly came together through small team-ups that culminated in a face-off against Darkseid who would return later for Darkseid War, which would conclude the New 52 run. In the end, the fan outcry for the DC Universe of yesteryear won out and editors began to deliver the most recent reboot.
Towards the end of the New 52 the Convergence story-line started to bring back some elements of the old multiverse that fans loved (such as original recipe Clark Kent/Superman). This all rolled out in 2015, sowing the seeds for DC Rebirth in 2016. A return to form started to take place in the DC Universe – old characters who had been erased from the timeline such as Wally West began to show back up. Certain heroes’ characterizations were slowly altered in order to maintain consistency with the old universe; and even with all the normalization taking place, the universe still remained modern and somewhat accessible. In essence, the universe didn’t start over but a new page was turned making it so the Justice League from the New 52 were still around just with some alterations coming out of Darkseid War and Convergence. The team was now consisting of Batman, Superman (New Earth), Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash (Barry Allen), two different Green Lanterns (Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz), and Aquaman. DC Rebirth was an overall success sparking great fan reception and critical feedback.
In 2017 Dark Nights: Metal brought back the original seven once again in order to fend off against the Dark Multiverse. The ensuing conflict resulted in the breaking of the Source Wall (the end of the known multiverse). After this, DC editorial staff decided to remove the “Rebirth” branding and include all DC titles under the “DC Universe” name. Following this, Batman writer Scott Snyder jumped on board writing for the Justice League, changing the team somewhat for the new adventures involving the massive cracking of the Source Wall. The team now consisted of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Barry Allen), Hawkgirl, Cyborg, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman. Following the No Justice storyline after all of that, Justice League Dark is now headed by Wonder Woman and Justice League Oddysey was created, which now contained Cyborg, Starfire, Azrael, Darkseid, and Green Lantern (Jessica Cruz). These run parallel to the main Justice League title. Kind of confusing, but good stories continue to be made regarding the Justice League.
Impact of the Justice League
The Justice League is one of the great comics in the history of the industry. It’s inception and creation paved the way for many other teams in the DC Universe and outside of it. Many of the archetypes that have been parodied, deconstructed, and examined since, were set in large part by the Justice League. Multiple animated films and TV shows have been made to great critical acclaim (whilst a very critically panned live action film was released in 2017). Like any comic book entity, the Justice League have had their ups and down, but the impact that they have made on the world has been an overall success, all thanks to Gardner Fox reworking the golden age heroes for a new era of comics for the world to enjoy.
- The Brave and the Bold #28 (1960)
- Justice League of America #8 (1960)
- Crisis On Infinite Earths
- JLA Vol 1 (1997)
- Final Crisis
- Kingdom Come
- Blackest Night
- The Flashpoint Paradox
- The New 52 Justice League Vol 1 (2011)
- Trinity War
- Forever Evil
- Darkseid War
- DC: Rebirth
- Dark Nights: Metal
- No Justice
- Justice League: The Totality