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Behind the Justice League


Major League

All the little comic book fanboys cheered on August 23, when the first issue of the new Justice League of America title hit shelves. It's yet another relaunch for comicdom's premier super team (sorry, Avengers --- no squad with Ant Man as a founding member can be considered top dog), this one shepherded by novelist Brad Meltzer and up-and-coming artist Ed Benes. The new lineup is causing quite a stir in the online comic communities, but it bears remembering that over the years the League has had many, many iterations with many, many members. In honor of the new book, here's a very basic history of the bestest super team ever.

The founders:

The Justice League first formed in March 1960's Brave and the Bold No. 28. Writer Gardner Fox brought together DC Comics' heaviest hitters to take on an alien threat, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter. The team operated out of a secret cave in the small town of Happy Harbor and eventually added new members including archer Green Arrow, size-shrinking Atom, and winged warrior Hawkman.

The Satellite League:

The end of the 1960s brought an end to the kitschy secret cave and all its trappings, and the League found a new headquarters in an Earth-orbiting satellite. It also found a new, more socially relevant direction under writers like Denny O'Neil, and an even larger cast. Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, and Hawkwoman all joined the team, and teenage hero Firestorm became a mainstay in the early 1980s.

The Detroit League:

Writer Gerry Conway decided to refresh the League by focusing on new, young heroes. It was a colossal failure, as the new members --- Steel, Vibe, Gypsy, and Vixen --- were largely unmemorable and the biggest name in the book was Aquaman, for pity's sake. Editors knew they had to do something drastic and so, in the final issue of the original Justice League of America, several members were murdered and the team disbanded.

Justice League International

Going in a totally different direction, writers JM DeMatteis and Keith Giffenrelaunched the team as a global operation featuring a massively expanded cast --- new members included Captain Marvel, Mr. Miracle, Dr. Fate, Metamorpho, Blue Beetle, Animal Man, and Booster Gold, among others --- with multiple bases of operation and even multiple series. The tone shifted dramatically as well, infused with slapstick humor. The book's popularity waned again by the early 1990s, and the series and its various spin-offs were cancelled.


Offbeat writer Grant Morrison brought the League back to basics in the mid-1990s with this series featuring the "big seven": all the original members were back tackling darker, more complicated threats. The core seven stuck around for most of the run, joined by new members like Major Disaster, Plastic Man, and Big Barda. A string of rotating-creator arcs ultimately killed the book, paving the way for the new relaunch featuring a cast culled from all the previous eras.