A (brief) history of the Justice League – in all its incarnations
1960: FIRST APPEARANCE
The original seven heroes— Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman and Wonder Woman—battle Starro the Conqueror, a giant alien starfish bent on world domination in the League’s debut story in The Brave and the Bold #28. Snapper Carr joins as the team’s nonpowered, finger-snapping, hipster mascot.
REGULAR SERIES BEGINS: Justice League of America launches its long-running regular series with a classic cover pitting the Flash against the dimension-hopping tyrant Despero.
Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to Justice League, going behind the scenes of the upcoming movie and into the origin stories of the League’s members, is on sale now.
1961: GREEN ARROW JOINS
Just four issues in, the League gets its first new member as Oliver Queen’s alter ego signs up for duty. The archer’s presence changes the complexion of the team; two issues later Batman and Superman are listed for the first time as “non-participating members” in the roll call.
1962: A BELATED ORIGIN STORY
The JLA’s origin story is finally told in flashback. Seven aliens from distant Appellax arrive on Earth intending to battle one another. The League forms to drive them off.
1962: A SMALL WONDER
Billed as “the world’s smallest superhero,” the Atom proves his worthiness to join after saving the League from, yes, a booby-trapped bowling ball.
1963: WORLDS COLLIDE
With previous comics establishing that the Justice Society of America (the 1940s prototype for the JLA) still existed on “Earth-Two,” the two teams met in the first of a series of annual crossovers. The League also encounters Black Canary, who eventually crosses worlds to join the Justice League.
1964: TAKING A FLIER
￼￼￼The extraterrestrial contingent of the League grows with the induction of Hawkman, a winged visitor from planet Thanagar. (Hawkgirl, meanwhile, is lamely told that only one new member is allowed at a time.)
1969: NO MORE TEEN SIDEKICKS
Once included to give kids someone to identify with, non- powered teenage mascots soon grew passé. In the last Justice League issue of the 1960s, the Joker tricks Snapper Carr into betraying the team, which he subsequently quits.
1970: INTO SPACE
The first issue of the 1970s saw a major scenery change, as the JLA decamped from its Secret Sanctuary to an enormous satellite headquarters in Earth’s orbit.
1973: TEEN SIDEKICKS RETURN . . . ON TV
ABC airs the first Super Friends cartoon episode featuring the original core Justice League, minus Martian Manhunter, Flash and Green Lantern. Robin is included, as are sidekicks created for the show, Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog. Later seasons included TV creations Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna and their monkey Gleek—as well as comics characters Firestorm and Cyborg.
1975: NAME TAGS WOULD’VE HELPED
After a mind-scrambler leads to the heroes going home to the wrong secret identities, the League members share their real names with one another.
1979: THE EVIL LEAGUE
The League—now including android Red Tornado— temporarily falls prey to a body- switching scheme with the Secret Society of Super-Villains.
1985: CRISIS STRIKES
A much-changed League featuring Elongated Man, Vixen, Steel, Gypsy, Vibe and Zatanna Zatara confronts the “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the massive crossover event that winnowed the multiple Earths into a single streamlined universe. The JLA’s satellite is destroyed in the process.
1987: NEW TEAM
A new series relaunches the team, now including Guy Gardner, an abrasive Green Lantern. The title for several years becomes Justice League International, reflecting the team’s global responsibilities.
1992: DEATH OF SUPERMAN
The Justice League battles the alien monstrosity Doomsday alongside Superman, who is killed in one of the best-selling comics of all time. The sequence would later serve as a foundation for events depicted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
1996: KINGDOM COME
Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ seminal miniseries imagines a future in which too many superheroes and supervillains become a calamity for Earth, forcing the JLA to reassemble and tame the metahuman masses.
1997: NEW WORLD ORDER
The original high-powered hero lineup reunites against a new enemy: the White Martians. The Grant Morrison story line led off JLA, a revival that ran for 126 issues and nine years.
2001: BACK TO TELEVISION
Nine years after Batman: The Animated Series introduced a noir look to DC universe cartoons, the team gets the same treatment in Justice League. Adding Hawkgirl and John Stewart’s Green Lantern to the core lineup, the series ran two seasons with three more as Justice League Unlimited.
2003: UNIVERSES COLLIDE!
While a JLA crossover with Marvel’s Avengers had been teased since the 1980s, the two publishers finally came to terms in 2003 with JLA/Avengers—or Avengers/JLA, depending on which publisher printed the issue you were reading.
2004: IDENTITY CRISIS
Mystery novelist Brad Meltzer’s acclaimed Identity Crisis miniseries uses the murder of the Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibny, to take the heroes to task for the forcible altering of others’ memories, a frequent trope in early stories to protect secret identities. The truth behind her death nearly tears the team apart.
2006: WONDER WOMAN RESTORED
The 2006 relaunch of the Justice League of America series undid the postcrisis deletion of Wonder Woman from the League’s origins, brought in a new JLA Satellite and further made Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman central to the decision to form a permanent team.
2011: THE NEW 52
Yet another relaunch pits Batman, Green Lantern, Superman and Cyborg against minions of Darkseid, setting up elements for the later films.
The most recent relaunch, the Rebirth-era League has the same basic members as the cinematic cast, plus two Green Lanterns. Because just one isn’t enough.
For more on the Justice League...
Pick up Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to Justice League, which goes behind the scenes of the upcoming movie and into the origin stories of the League’s members, on sale now.