|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 fictional team of superheroes that appears 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 publication due to a decline in the popularity of superheroes.
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 their team, with the team being central to their identity. The Justice League was created to cross-promote DC Comics characters and expand book sales. A Batman fan might buy a Justice League book because Batman appears in it, and perhaps in turn take an interest in Superman, who also appears as Batman's friend and comrade. 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.
Beyond comic books, the Justice League has been adapted to a number of television shows, movies, and video games.
In most incarnations of the Justice League, the League comprised at least one A-list character who had his own solo book, such as Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. During the 1980s and early 1990s, DC Comics created new incarnations of the Justice League which deliberately excluded such high-profile characters in favor of promoting lesser-known characters such as Blue Beetle and Vixen, so that the writers could have more flexibility to write character-driven stories.
Most versions of the Justice League are independent of any other organization, although it usually accepts some constraints from governments (either the US government or the United Nations) so as to receive their sanction. It selects its own members. There is no formal hierarchy in the League, and they make certain decisions, such as inducting new members, by vote.
The Justice League operates out of a headquarters. In the 1960s, their headquarters was 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. In the JLA comic book which ran from 1997-2006, their headquarters was on the Moon.
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 had one classic villain for each of the Justice League's classic heroes, e.g. Lex Luthor for Superman and Gorilla Grodd for the Flash. The Legion of Doom was then adapted to the comic books, with varying membership over the years.
Darkseid, an evil alien overlord, is a classic Justice League foe. He rules the planet Apokolips and possesses a large army, and can therefore often serves the role of an alien invader.
The Justice League often unite to face supervillains who pose catastrophic challenges to the world.
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. The Justice Society, as it appeared in this issue, comprised a number of legacy characters that DC Comics had retired in 1951, 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 who had their own solo books, 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 who did not have their own solo books, such as Vixen, Vibe, and Martian Manhunter. The original A-list members would not be brought back into the cast until 1996. This era of the Justice League, which lasted about two years, is popularly known as "Justice League Detroit". The impetus behind this change was to sidestep the convoluted continuities of the classic characters by using lesser-known characters, thus allowing for more 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, Vibe was Latino, Vixen was Black. However, the writing of Vibe and Gypsy was criticized for using clichÃ©s 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.
1986 reboot of the DC Universe
In the early 1980s, DC Comics' editors rebooted the DC Universe. In this rebooted setting, all the myriad superhero characters in the DC Comics portfolio now existed in the same fictional universe, as opposed to myriad parallel universes. This change was effected diegetically with the Crisis on Infinite Earths story arc (1985-1986). This reboot allowed writers to discard the confusing continuities that had accumulated over the decades, which made it easier for them to do character-driven stories. It also gave writers more flexibility in writing crossover stories, as they no longer needed to use awkward plot contrivances such as magical portals and universe-hopping villains. Writers could freely add members who were previously sequestered in other universes, such as Captain Marvel and Blue Beetle.
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 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 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.
Return to a multiverse setting (2006)
In 2006, DC Comics decided to formally return the DC Universe to a multiverse state similar to what it had prior to the 1986 reboot. This change was effected diegetically with the story arcs of Infinite Crisis and 52. In the years since Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986), writers had be re-introducing piecemeal various aspects of the classic multiverse, so there was both a desire and utility in restoring the multiverse in proper fashion.
Justice League Dark
In 2011, DC Comics created Justice League Dark, a group of mystic superheroes that included Zatanna and John Constantine. As the title suggests, the series was written to be "emotionally dark", with characters who are frequently left emotionally scarred by the things they have to see and do.
Crossovers with Marvel Comics
Over the years, there have been a small number of crossover comics featuring characters from DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Such crossovers are rare due to copyright issues; DC Comics and Marvel Comics are rival companies. The first crossover that featured the Justice League as a team was DC vs Marvel in 1996, a four-issue miniseries jointly published by DC and Marvel. The Justice League interacts with the X-Men and the Avengers. This miniseries in turn led to Amalgam Comics, which was special imprint jointly owned by Marvel and DC, created to publish stories about a world of superheroes who were a fusion of DC and Marvel characters, e.g. "Doctor Strangefate" was a mash of Doctor Fate, Doctor Strange, and Professor X.
DC and Marvel jointly released a second crossover series in 2003, JLA/Avengers.
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 the late 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.
DC Extended Universe
- 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. After the second season, the series name changed to Justice League Unlimited and featured a dramatically expanded cast.
- 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, making cameos in the episodes "So You Need a Crew?" wherein they defeated the Queen of Fables and had Zatanna imprison her in a tax book, "Devil's Snare" when Batman called them in to help to stop mutant killer trees before the Queen traps them in her fairy tale book, and "A Fight Worth Fighting For" when Zatanna frees them to help stop Doctor Psycho and his Parademon army. In "Lover's Quarrel", they successfully defeat the latter, but Psycho uses Poison Ivy's love pheromones on them. Known members of this incarnation of the Justice League include Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Aquaman, John Stewart / Green Lantern, and Barry Allen / Flash.
- 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.
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.
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. 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. After all, they were both quite large and didn't overlap. Thus the superhero fan community developed sub-communities of DC and Marvel devotees.
Marvel Studios repeated this business strategy when it produced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, culminating with the release of The Avengers in 2012. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero movies were usually isolated productions, mostly because of licensing issues. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was very successful, so Warner Brothers, which owns DC Comics, responded by producing its own series of interconnected superhero movies, culminating with Justice League in 2017. The movies raised brand awareness of DC Comics and Marvel Comics, because movies have bigger audiences than comic books. The public became more aware that the likes of Wonder Woman and Captain America existed in separate fictional universes and were owned by different companies.
Affiliations and spin-off groups
- Extreme Justice
- Justice League 3000
- Justice League Dark
- Justice League Elite
- Justice League Europe
- Justice League International
- Justice League Task Force
- Justice League United
- Justice Leagues
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- Super Buddies
- Super Friends
- Green Lantern Corps
- Teen Titans
- Young Justice
- Kaveney (2008), Superheroes!, p. 28: "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."
- Hickey (2011), An Incomprehensible Condition, p. 19
- 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 otherâs 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 clichÃ©d from the jump. I do share responsibility in my part of that, but I always felt uncomfortable with Vibeâs accent. It was meant to be a blind, something he hid behind to keep people from knowing he wasnât that "streetwise", but it was handled clumsily and we took our lumps for it."
- "JLI Podcast â Meanwhileâ¦ Gerry Conway Interview on Justice League Detroit". The Fire and Water Podcast Network. April 25, 2021.
- 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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