What are the best Justice League line-ups of all time?
Now’s as good a time to ask as any.
Nine of the ten core members of the current Justice League – including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, John Stewart,/Green Lantern Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Hawkgirl – are about to die on a mission in deep space in April 26’s Justice League #75.
In other words, most of the longest-tenured members of the team, and many of the characters who have formed the heart of the Justice League since its inception will be off the table, and the Justice League itself will disband as a result.
Whether they were called the Justice League, the Justice League of America, the JLA, or something else, there have been dozens of members of the League over the years, with numerous incarnations of the team incorporating totally different rosters and line-ups. So with the main Justice League about to meet their doom, we’re looking back at the best Justice League rosters/eras of all time.
10. Justice League Dark
Justice League Dark carries a weird concept. The unifying idea behind the group involved DC’s most potent magic users uniting under the “Justice League” umbrella, led by John Constantine and under the watchful eye of ARGUS, the ‘New 52”s superhero watchdog group.
It lasted for a good chunk of the ‘New 52,’ and managed to be a surprising fan favorite, bringing in many unexpected members. It even spawned rumors of a feature film by director Guillermo del Toro and eventually led to an HBO series being commissioned. (opens in new tab)
Justice League Dark also received a pair of animated film adaptations, and most recently the team appeared in a series of backup stories in the core Justice League title.
Key members: Constantine, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Doctor Mist, Black Orchid, Amethyst, Tim Hunter, Swamp Thing, Shade The Changing Man, Zauriel, Frankenstein
Recommended Reading: Justice League Dark: A Costly Trick of Magic (opens in new tab)
9. Justice League United
Some time into the ‘New 52,’ Justice League expanded to include a second, government-led team under the League’s original moniker, the Justice League of America. The team was relatively short-lived, only lasting until Forever Evil (opens in new tab) tore them apart.
In the aftermath, the team reorganized under Martian Manhunter’s leadership, carrying over some of the core relationships from the Justice League of America series while adding new concepts as Justice League United.
Key members: Catwoman, Steve Trevor, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Katana, Stargirl, Green Lantern (Simon Baz), Green Arrow, Doctor Light (Arthur Light), Animal Man, Adam Strange, Stargirl, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Equinox, Hawkman
Recommended Reading: Justice League United Vol. 1 (opens in new tab)
8. JLA: New Blood
All good things must change, and so it was with Grant Morrison’s iconic JLA line-up. Sometime after Morrison departed from the title, the main line-up went missing, leaving room for a new League to take its place. This team was spearheaded by Nightwing, making the jump from the Teen Titans to the Justice League – a move some of his close colleagues would later repeat.
Though many of the big guns did come back, some of the new blood stuck around. This era even led to a few minor spin-off teams, including the lethal black-ops squad Justice League Elite.
Key members: Nightwing, Faith, Moon Maiden, Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders), Jason Blood, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Major Disaster, Atom, Manitou Raven
Recommended Reading: JLA: The Obsidian Age (opens in new tab)
7. Justice League of America: One Year Later
The Justice League’s post-52 ‘One Year Later’ relaunch was divisive to say the least, piggy-backing off of writer Brad Meltzer’s controversial Identity Crisis (opens in new tab) miniseries. One thing that wasn’t in question, however, was the team’s powerful line-up. With a mix of JLA icons, legacy heroes, and new blood, Meltzer’s League made waves.
‘One Year Later’ brought the addition of Roy Harper (rechristened Red Arrow) and veteran hero Black Lightning to the League, along with the return of Vixen, and the promotion of Black Canary to team leader.
Key members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders), Red Arrow, Geo-Force, Black Lightning, Red Tornado, Black Canary, Vixen, Starman (Thom Kallor)
Recommended Reading: Justice League of America by Brad Meltzer (opens in new tab)
6. Justice League Unlimited
For a whole generation of fans, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s animated Justice League, which spun out of Batman: The Animated Series and its subsequent Superman spin-off, was their introduction not just to the League, but to the wider DC Universe.
Built around the core team of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, and John Stewart, the series eventually expanded to include a plethora of guest stars from all eras of the League – and some who were never previously members in the comic books. Many fans still consider Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to be the definitive representation of the DC Universe on the small screen.
The current Justice League roster – many of whom are about to die – is heavily influenced by JLU’s core team, including the inclusion of Hawkgirl and Green Lantern John Stewart alongside Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman.
Key members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol), Black Canary, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Huntress, Mister Terrific, Wildcat, Orion, Stargirl
Recommended Watching: Justice League Unlimited Season One (opens in new tab)
5. Justice League: The New 52
DC’s ‘New 52’ reboot kicked off by introducing the Justice League, which would prove to be the centerpiece of the new DC Universe. Featuring a line-up that hearkened back to Grant Morrison’s big guns, the ‘New 52’ League made the major change of adding Cyborg to its founding roster rather than the traditional Martian Manhunter (who did eventually play a small role in the title).
The ‘New 52’ Justice League eventually added such dark horse members as Captain Cold and Lex Luthor, but its core membership set the stage for the League’s future, including its first live-action cinematic incarnation.
Key members: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Aquaman, Cyborg, Shazam, Element Woman, Atom, Firestorm, Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, Power Ring, Martian Manhunter
Recommended Reading: Justice League: The New 52 Omnibus Vol. 1 (opens in new tab)
4. The Brave & The Bold
This is the line-up that started it all. The first incarnation of the Justice League of America that made their debut in The Brave & The Bold #28 (opens in new tab) battling Starro. The nascent Justice League, which set the stage for the introduction of the Fantastic Four at Marvel and the beginning, in earnest, of the Silver Age, took its cues from its predecessor the Justice Society and even included updated versions of several JSA mainstays.
The JLA originally brought together Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, Martian Manhunter (who would remain the team’s heart for decades), and Wonder Woman. After Crisis On Infinite Earths rewrote DC history, Black Canary was retconned as the first female member of the team, though Wonder Woman’s place as a founder was restored with 52. Superman and Batman were also present for the League’s formation, but remained on the sidelines for many years, only arriving in reserve.
Key members: Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Flash (Barry Allen), Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Atom, Green Arrow (Oliver Queen), Superman, Batman
Recommended Reading: Justice League of America: The Silver Age Vol. 1 (opens in new tab)
3. Justice League International
After Crisis On Infinite Earths (opens in new tab) changed the entire history of the DC Universe, the crossover Legends brought the dormant League back in a big way. Coupling big names like Batman and Martian Manhunter with new icons like Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, the new Justice League drew from all corners of the DC Universe – and protected them.
Organized by Maxwell Lord, his League took the name “Justice League International,” incorporating heroes from all over the globe before breaking into separate teams in America and Europe. This era had its share of misses, but remains a touchstone for many fans, having been revived in spirit and tone many times in the 35+ years since its introduction.
Key members: Batman, Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, Mister Miracle, Doctor Fate, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Doctor Light, Rocket Red, Martian Manhunter, Fire, Ice, Maxwell Lord, L-Ron, Animal Man, Crimson Fox, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Power Girl, Metamorpho, Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Flash (Wally West), General Glory, Orion, Lightray
Recommended Reading: Justice League International Book One: Born Again (opens in new tab)
2. JLA: The Pantheon
Grant Morrison’s JLA returned the League to its glory days, eschewing the lower-tier hangers-on in favor of a ‘big guns’ approach before eventually adding more diverse members that could contribute to specific missions.
Loosely based on the Gods of Olympus, the ‘Pantheon’ approach, as Morrison called it, harkened to their personal theories of superheroes as modern myths. While Morrison didn’t technically invent the ‘all-killer, no-filler’ League, they did bring it back to the forefront of the DC Universe.
Key members: Batman, Superman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Tomorrow Woman, Aztek, Big Barda, Oracle, Plastic Man, Steel (John Henry Irons), Zauriel, Green Arrow (Connor Hawke), Huntress
Recommended Reading: JLA by Grant Morrison Omnibus (opens in new tab)
1. Justice League of America: Satellite Era
From the late ’60s through the early ’80s, the Justice League wasn’t just a team – it was practically an army. An expansive line-up of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes, the definitive Justice League called their iconic satellite home, and are still referred to as the ‘Satellite League.’
While this wasn’t the first iteration of the League, it did set the template for the most popular versions of the team, with members ranging from the top-tier heavy hitters, to mid-card mainstays, and surprising additions. The Satellite League remains the definitive, prototypical version of the League that gave rise to Morrison’s Pantheon, the animated league, and more.
Key members: Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Flash (Barry Allen), Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Atom, Green Arrow (Oliver Queen), Black Canary, Red Tornado, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Zatanna, Superman, Batman, Hawkman (Katar Hol), Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol)
Recommended Reading: Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3 (opens in new tab)