|First appearance||The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960)|
|Created by||Gardner Fox|
|See: List of Justice League members|
The Justice League is a team of superheroes in American comic books published by DC Comics. The team first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960). The team was conceived by writer Gardner Fox as a revival of the Justice Society of America, a similar team from DC Comics from the 1940s which had been pulled out of print due to a decline in sales.
The Justice League is an all-star ensemble cast of established superhero characters from DC Comics' portfolio. Diegetically, these superheroes usually operate independently but occasionally assemble as a team to tackle especially formidable villains. This in contrast to certain other superhero teams such as the X-Men, whose characters were created specifically to be part of the team, with the team being central to their identity. The cast of the Justice League usually features a few highly popular characters who have their own solo books, such as Superman, alongside a number of lesser-known characters who benefit from exposure, such as Cyborg. The Justice League was created to boost the profiles and sales of said characters through cross-promotion and helped develop the DC Universe as a shared universe, as it is through teams like the Justice League that the setting's characters regularly interact with each other.
Beyond comic books, the Justice League has been adapted to a number of television shows, movies, and video games.
The members of the Justice League are heroes who normally operate independently but who occasionally team up to tackle especially formidable villains. This is in contrast to teams such as the X-Men or the Fantastic Four, who normally operate as a team and for whom the team is central to their identity.
Most versions of the Justice League feature a select cast of highly popular characters from the DC Comics portfolio, such as Superman and Batman, to attract readers with their star power; and they often co-feature a few lesser-known characters who benefit from exposure, such as Cyborg or Black Canary. DC Comics has in several periods deviated from this formula, most notably in the late 1980s and early 1990s with books such as Justice League International, which deliberately featured a cast of lesser-known characters. The advantage of this was that lesser-known characters are not burdened by convoluted continuities, which gives writers more creative flexibility to write character-driven stories. This was done to emulate the model of Marvel Comics' X-Men books, whose stories were more character-driven and which favored more obscure or even new characters.
The Justice League is an independent group, although it usually accepts some constraints from the US government or the United Nations so as to receive their sanction. Particularly in the early decades of publication, DC Comics was keen for its superheroes to be perceived as law-abiding because children were the main audience. The cast is rarely more than a dozen people in size so as to give a reasonable and equal time for each character. While sometimes the League is shown to have a designated chairperson or leader, there is otherwise generally no formal hierarchy within the team; they are a small band of equals who make major decisions, such as inducting new members, by vote.
The Justice League operates out of a headquarters. In the 1960s, their headquarters was secretly in a hollowed-out mountain outside the fictional town of Happy Harbor in Rhode Island. In Justice League of America #78 (1970), they moved to a satellite. In the Super Friends cartoons which ran from 1973-1985, they operated out of the "Hall of Justice" located in Washington, DC. During the brief "Justice League Detroit" era, they were headquartered in a repurposed bomb shelter in Detroit. In the JLA comic book which ran from 1997-2006, their headquarters was on the Moon and called "the Watchtower". The centerpiece of the headquarters is a conference table around which the Justice League discusses menaces to deal with. The satellite and moon base headquarters are equipped with teleporters for those members who cannot fly to it.
The Legion of Doom was created for the Challenge of the Super Friends animated TV series as a villainous counterpart to the Justice League. In that original incarnation, it consisted of established villains associated with each of the Justice League's members, e.g. Lex Luthor for Superman, Gorilla Grodd for the Flash, and Cheetah for Wonder Woman. The Legion of Doom, or some variant of it, has since appeared in other TV shows and comic books.
Since 1960, the Justice League has appeared in comic books published by DC Comics (periodicals and graphic novels). These comic books constitute the bulk of Justice League fiction.
Silver Age and Bronze Age (1960-1984)
In its inception, the Justice League was a revival of the Justice Society of America, created by editor Sheldon Mayer and writer Gardner Fox in 1940. After World War 2, superheroes fell out of popularity, which led to the cancellation of many characters, including the Justice Society, which last appeared in All-Star Comics #57 (1951). A few years later, sales rose again, and DC Comics revived some of these retired characters, reinventing a few of them in the process. Editor Julius Schwartz asked writer Gardner Fox to reintroduce the Justice Society of America. Schwartz decided to rename it the "Justice League of America" because he felt "League" would appeal better to young readers, evoking sports organizations such as the National League. The Justice League of America debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960), and after two further appearances in that title, got its own series, which quickly became one of the company's best-selling titles. This led DC Comics to create a bunch of other superhero teams, such as the Teen Titans. Marvel Comics, a rival comic book publisher, noticed the Justice League's success and created the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
The initial Justice League lineup included seven of DC Comics' superheroes who were regularly published at that time: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. Green Arrow, the Atom and Hawkman were added to the team over the next four years.
In the Justice Society stories from the 1940s (in All-Star Comics), the Justice Society was used more as a framing device for its members' solo adventures. The stories tended to have the following plot structure: the Justice Society meets to discuss some new menace, they split up to undertake individual missions that somehow connect to said menace, and finally regroup for the showdown with the main villain. In the 1940s, most comic books were anthologies, and All-Star Comics was in practice not a major deviation from that format. By contrast, the Justice League worked more closely as a team in their stories from the 1960s, thereby having a stronger identity as a team.
In another change from the Justice Society stories of the 1940s, Batman and Superman were now regular members of the cast, not mere "honorary members" who made occasional cameos.
Justice League of America #21 (1963) featured the first crossover story in which the Justice League meets and teams up with the Justice Society of America. In doing so, DC Comics brought back a number of legacy characters such as Doctor Fate and Black Canary. The issue was a hit with readers and such crossovers became a recurring event.
Detroit era (1984-1986)
From the Justice League's inception in 1960 up until 1984, the team's roster always included a number of A-list characters to draw in readers, such as Green Lantern and Superman. But in Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984), the Justice League was revised to entirely comprise more obscure characters, such as Vixen, Vibe, and Martian Manhunter. The original A-list members would not be brought back into the cast until 1996. The motives behind this change were to dispense with the convoluted continuities of the classic characters by using lesser-known and new characters, thus giving the writers more flexibility to write character-driven stories; and to give the team a more youthful, hipper feel similar to that of the Teen Titans and the X-Men, which were selling better. The cast was multicultural: Gypsy was Romani[a], Vibe was Latino, Vixen was Black. However, the writing of Vibe and Gypsy was criticized for using clichés of their ethnic groups, symptomatic of writers who were well-meaning but out of touch with certain minorities, something for which said writers (Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton) later expressed regret. This era of the Justice League, which lasted about two years, is popularly known as "Justice League Detroit" because they were headquartered in Detroit.
Justice League International and its spin-offs (1986-1996)
The 1986 company-wide crossover "Legends" concluded with the formation of a new Justice League. The new team was dubbed "Justice League," then "Justice League International" (JLI) and was given a mandate with less of an American focus. The Justice League International was recognized by the United Nations as a political entity and established "embassies" all over the world. The new series was character-driven and had a quirky, humorous tone which proved popular with readers. Numerous spin-off teams such as Justice League Europe, Extreme Justice, and Justice League Task Force were created. In 1996, these series were cancelled due to low sales.
The Justice League International featured characters that had previously not been part of the DC Universe, which had been absorbed from the portfolios of other publishers that DC Comics had purchased. These included Captain Atom and Blue Beetle, which were created for Charlton Comics in the 1960s. In 1983, DC Comics purchased Charlton Comics and, a few years later, integrated Blue Beetle and Captain Atom into the DC Universe. Captain Marvel, originally from the Fawcett Comics universe, was similarly integrated.
The cancellation of the aforementioned spin-off books prompted DC to revamp the League as a single team in a single title. A new Justice League of America was launched in September 1996 limited series Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza, which returned to the classic cast of the 1960s. In 1997, DC Comics launched a new book titled JLA. Grant Morrison wrote JLA for the first four years, and he gave the book an epic feel by making the Justice League an allegory for a pantheon of gods, and in their stories they regularly fought villains who threatened the entire world or even the entire cosmos. JLA was cancelled in 2006.
The Justice League has on a few occasions appeared in crossover stories with superhero characters from rival publishers such as Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics. In general, such inter-company crossovers are rare because a lot of resources must be spent in sorting out the legal issues and corporate politics of the two companies, which reduces their profitability.
The last crossover between DC Comics and Marvel Comics was JLA/Avengers, which they jointly published in 2003. Now that Marvel Comics and DC Comics are part of major multimedia corporations (Disney and Warner Brothers respectively), those aforementioned hurdles are even more complicated, which makes another project like JLA/Avengers much less likely. In 2017, Dan Didio remarked that DC Comics and Marvel are very competitive towards each other and only did crossovers when their sales were low. However, DC Comics did go on to feature the Justice League in crossovers with smaller companies such as Dark Horse Comics, such as a crossover with Black Hammer in 2019.
In other media
- The Justice League appear in Justice League: The New Frontier, which was based on Darwyn Cooke's comic book limited series & DC: The New Frontier, where the heroes of Earth unite to take on an evil entity called the Centre. It was released on February 26, 2008. The film received mostly positive reviews. Screener copies were sent to website reviewers a month before the DVD's official release. Most of the reviews were positive and geared up the film's release even more.
- The team appear in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. In 2004, Bruce Timm revealed that a DCAU direct-to-video Justice League feature was in development to connect Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. The film was titled as Justice League: Worlds Collide. Later the film was rewritten by Dwayne McDuffie for DC Universe Animated Original Movies as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, but removing all connections with the animated series. Based on Grant Morrison's 2000 comic book JLA: Earth 2, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths dealt with a heroic Lex Luthor from an alternate universe appearing to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters who are essentially evil versions of the Justice League. A sequel titled Justice League: Doom was released and is loosely based on JLA: Tower of Babel.
- They appear in Justice League: Gods and Monsters. In July 2014, as part of the San Diego Comic-Con, DC Comics announced Justice League: Gods and Monsters for a 2015 release. The movie, featuring an original plot, was written by Alan Burnett and directed by Sam Liu and executive produced by Bruce Timm and Sam Register. Along with the film, a three-part animated series entitled Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles was released before the film on Machinima with Timm as an executive producer in 2015.
- They appear in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. The film received very positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% approval rating. Critics and audiences said that the film stays true to its source material. It is generally praised for its mature storyline and the way Flash obtains justice, but criticized for its excessive violence and use of blood that exceeds the comics it is adapted from.
- The team are prominently featured in the DC Animated Movie Universe, making their debut in Justice League: War which was followed up by Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Justice League vs. Teen Titans. They are also featured in Justice League Dark in which they aid John Constantine in a magical invasion, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen and Justice League Dark: Apokolips War in which the Justice League will team up with the Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Justice League Dark to defeat Darkseid in one final epic battle to save Earth.
Animated TV shows
- In 1967, CBS aired three animated shorts titled "Justice League of America" as part of The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. The cast featured Aquaman, the Flash, Superman, the Atom, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.
- The team appear in Super Friends. Super Friends is an American animated television series about the Justice League, which ran from 1973 to 1986 on ABC as part of its Saturday morning cartoon lineup. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and was based on the Justice League of America (JLA) and associated comic book characters published by DC Comics. There were a total of 109 episodes preceded by two backdoor pilot episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
- An animated television series titled Justice League ran from 2001 to 2006 on Cartoon Network. It is part of the DC animated universe. The show was produced by Warner Bros. Animation. It is based on the Justice League of America and associated comic book characters published by DC Comics. After the second season, the series name changed to Justice League Unlimited.
- Another series titled Justice League Action was also released. It is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name. The series is produced by Jim Krieg, Butch Lukic, and Alan Burnett. This show debuted on Cartoon Network UK on November 26, 2016, and premiered in the United States on Cartoon Network on December 16, 2016.
- The Justice League make minor appearances in the adult animated web television series Harley Quinn.
- A proto-Justice League lineup is featured in Smallville, first appearing in the episode "Justice" of the show's sixth season. The group initially consists of Clark Kent, Bart Allen, Arthur Curry, Victor Stone, Oliver Queen, Chloe Sullivan and Dinah Lance; in the show's comic book continuation Smallvile: Continuity, an assemblage more familiar to the Justice League in most other media is formed, including Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Stargirl, Tess Mercer, Supergirl, Booster Gold, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.
- The Justice League are mentioned in the first season of Titans during a conversation between Dick Grayson and Donna Troy during flashbacks.
- At the end of the Arrowverse crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths, the heroes of the newly created Earth-Prime gather at an abandoned S.T.A.R. Labs building and around a table; forming a team to defend their new world following a memorial for Oliver Queen / Green Arrow, who gave his life to save the multiverse. While never referred to as the Justice League, this group consists of White Canary, The Flash, Supergirl, Batwoman, Superman, Black Lightning and Martian Manhunter, with an empty seat in honor of Oliver.
DC Extended Universe
- The League's formation is first alluded to in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), where Diana Prince is sent a confidential LexCorp email from Bruce Wayne, containing video files on other metahumans such as herself, accompanied by a photograph of her alongside Steve Trevor and a platoon of soldiers during World War I. The videos depict Barry Allen apprehending an attempted theft at a liquor store, Arthur Curry swimming in the ocean, and Silas Stone attempting to resuscitate his son Victor using a Mother Box following a car crash that crippled him and killed his mother Elinore Stone.
- The team is indirectly referenced in the post-credits scene of Suicide Squad (2016), in which Bruce Wayne tells Amanda Waller to dissolve Belle Reve's Task Force X program for the forseeable future as his "friends" would handle major public occurrences on the scale of Enchantress' attack on Gotham City from that point forward. Waller, suspecting that Bruce is Batman, supplies him with files pertaining to the origins and current whereabouts of the other metahumans he is seeking to recruit as part of his team.
- The team physically appears together in Justice League (2017) and the director's cut Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021), in which Bruce Wayne, wanting to honor Superman's self-sacrifice, partners with Diana Prince to recruit Barry Allen, Victor Stone and Arthur Curry, intent on forming a team of super-powered individuals that would be able to apprehend the looming threat of the New Gods Steppenwolf & Darkseid, alongside their army of Parademons, who collectively seek out the three Mother Boxes hidden across Earth in order to bond them together to form the "Unity", a cataclysmic event which would terraform the planet into a copy of their home, Apokolips. The team also successfully resurrects Superman using one of the Mother Boxes, who aids them in their final confrontation with Steppenwolf, and assists Cyborg & The Flash in seperating the three Mother Boxes before they were able to merge as Darkseid made his way to Earth. Upon defeat and reflecting on Steppenwolf's demise during a lengthy conflict with the League, Darkseid vows to return to Earth in the future, bearing a full armada in order to launch a full-scale invasion of the planet as he plans on retrieving the Anti-Life Equation to assimilate the population. Bruce Wayne meanwhile, begins to refurbish and renovate the defunct Wayne Manor, repurposing it as the team's new base of operations and expanding it to accomodate for potential future members. Zack Snyder's Justice League also features an appearance from Martian Manhunter, revealed to be the true identity of General Calvin Swanwick, who first consols a depressed Lois Lane about Clark Kent's death under the guise of Martha Kent during the film's events, before promising to stay in touch with Bruce during the epilogue while offering his services to the team in preparation for Darkseid's inevitable return.
- In Shazam! (2019), it is shown that Billy Batson's adoptive brother Freddy Freeman, collects memorabilia pertaining to the Justice League, such as an action figure of Batman, a replica of a Batarang, as well as an action figure, mug & hat themed around Superman. He also professes his love for Aquaman and Wonder Woman to Batson while they read news pertaining to the team's exploits.
Most of the characters that appear in DC Comics' books are set in the same fictional universe, known as the DC Universe. They occasionally make guest appearances in each other's solo books, and more regularly in team books such as Justice League. Such crossovers encouraged readers to buy other books in DC Comics' catalogue, and readers became engrossed not just in the individual characters but in their web of relationships across the broader setting, thereby building brand loyalty. Marvel Comics copied this idea by creating a number of superhero teams of its own, the closest analogue being the Avengers, so as to promote and develop the Marvel Universe. Many readers devoted themselves to just one of these two comic book universes. Thus the superhero fan community developed sub-communities of DC and Marvel devotees.
The original Justice League of America series won two 1961 Alley Awards in the categories "Best Comic Book" and "Best Adventure-Hero Group." In 1963, the series won "Favorite Novel" ("Crisis on Earth-One/Crisis on Earth-Two" in Justice League of America #21–22 by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky) and "Strip that Should Be Improved." There also an award specific to the series, "Artist Preferred on Justice League of America," that was won by Murphy Anderson.
Theme park attractions
Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D
Justice League: Alien Invasion is an interactive dark ride at Warner Bros. Movie World on the Gold Coast, Australia. In the ride, guests board vehicles equipped with blasters as they join the Justice League in the fight against Starro, who has mind-controlled the citizens of Metropolis.
Justice League: Battle for Metropolis
Justice League: Battle for Metropolis is an interactive dark ride at seven Six Flags parks across the United States and Mexico. In the ride, Lex Luthor and the Joker have captured Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash, and it is up to the combined forces of the remaining members of the Justice League and the Justice League Reserve Team to save them from their capture at LexCorp. Guests board motion-enhanced and stun blaster-equipped vehicles designed by A.R.G.U.S. as they ride through Metropolis and join the fight against the henchmen of Lex Luthor and the Joker.
Affiliations and spin-off groups
- Extreme Justice
- Justice League 3000
- Justice League Beyond
- Justice League Dark
- Justice League Elite
- Justice League Europe
- Justice League International
- Justice League Queer
- Justice League Task Force
- Justice League United
- Justice Leagues
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- Super Buddies
- Super Friends
- Green Lantern Corps
- Teen Titans
- Young Justice
- This was later retconned in 2013
- Hickey (2011), An Incomprehensible Condition, p. 19
- Kaveney (2008), Superheroes!, p. 28: "One of the major driving forces of the creation of these universes was the commercial imperative to create brand loyalty to more titles within a single publishing house’s products. Crossovers, in which a character from one comic produced by a house visited the story of another, meant that there was a chance that readers who were not buying the first comic would start to buy it in addition to the second. Team-up comics like the Justice League of America were even more likely to interest readers in characters they had not previously bothered with."
- Rhoades (2008), A Complete History of American Comic Books, p. 70
- Daniels, Les (1995). "The Justice League of America A Team of Good Sports". DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 127. ISBN 0821220764.
Justice League was a hit. It solidified once and for all the importance of superhero groups, and in the process provided a playground where DC's characters could attract new fans while entertaining established admirers.
- "Chuck Patton talks Justice League Detroit". DC in the 80s. December 4, 2018.: "I think it was Len Wein who ultimately decided that it was time for a change in the JLA, especially when all of the other major DC books started to crack under the weight of each other’s differing storylines and changes in continuity. [...] Gerry [Conway] strongly felt that a new 'JLA' needed a younger, hipper roster to reflect the times, but most important, have little to no connection with the then-current DC roster and more freedom. I enthusiastically agreed with him, wanting to capture the same youthful spirit that made hits of X-Men and Teen Titans."
- Bug Norman (May 27, 2021). "Where The X-Men Thrived, The Justice League Died". ScreenRant.
- "Chuck Patton talks Justice League Detroit". DC in the 80s. December 4, 2018.: "However I really really wished we had avoided a lot of the gimmickry or played them a lot less clichéd from the jump. I do share responsibility in my part of that, but I always felt uncomfortable with Vibe’s accent. It was meant to be a blind, something he hid behind to keep people from knowing he wasn’t that "streetwise", but it was handled clumsily and we took our lumps for it."
- "JLI Podcast – Meanwhile… Gerry Conway Interview on Justice League Detroit". The Fire and Water Podcast Network. April 25, 2021.
- Rosie Knight (October 8, 2020). "How Grant Morrison's JLA Saved DC's Biggest Heroes".
- Jermaine McLaughlin (June 15, 2015). "Marvel and DC team-up: An oral history of JLA/Avengers, the most ambitious crossover event ever". SyFy Wire.
Tom Brevoort: "Those were really the final days of both companies being "Mom & Pop" shops. Now, with both Marvel and DC being integrated multi-platform companies, the inter-mingling of competing IP is a much more complicated and complex situation, along with the fact that you wind up spending considerable resources on a project for which you only recoup half of the eventual profits (and that you cannot utilize across other lines of business beyond the publishing) make it a lot more difficult to justify. It's hard to justify both the allocation of resources and also the difficulties of navigating the politics between two competing corporate giants. So it's not impossible that it could never happen again, but the factors against it happening are considerable."
- Brendan Hughes (March 19, 2018). "Could We Get A New Marvel/DC Crossover In The Near Future?".
"Dan Didio, DC’s Co-Publisher, squashed the idea of any crossover with Marvel during the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con stating that the best way for DC to succeed is to compete with Marvel. He linked that the past Marvel/DC crossovers were a temporary measure due to the comic market reaching all-time lows."
- "1961 Alley Awards". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015.
- "1963 Alley Awards". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015.
- Andrew Hickey (2011). An Incomprehensible Condition: An Unauthorised Guide To Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers. ISBN 9781447780021.
- Roz Kaveney (2008). Superheroes!: Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781845115692.
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