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Justice League of America

Entry updated 6 May 2024. Tagged: Character, Comics.

A team of DC Comics Superheroes who first appeared in issues #28, #29, and #30 of the tryout Comic Brave and the Bold (1960) before graduating in the same year to their own title; they have continued to regularly appear in DC comics to this day. They were the successors of an earlier group of DC heroes from the 1940s, the Justice Society of America, who were then reimagined as the inhabitants of a Parallel World, Earth-2, and periodically teamed up with the Justice League. Its charter members were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter, though Superman and Batman appeared only briefly in early stories. The League also included as a "mascot" a hipster teenager, Snapper Carr, who sometimes assisted them though he had no superpowers or special abilities; this unpopular figure was eventually removed by having him turn against the Justice League. Beginning with Green Arrow in 1961, soon followed by the Atom and Hawkman, the team has since added numerous members, losing some as well, and virtually every major DC hero has joined the group at one time or another; a few heroes have debuted in their comic, such as Vibe, Gypsy, and the modern Red Tornado. In addition to members of the Justice Society, innumerable other superheroes have shared adventures with the Justice League, both from DC Comics and from Quality Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Charlton Comics.

The early exploits of the Justice League are of greatest sf interest because their first author, Gardner Fox, was an experienced sf writer; in his stories, the heroes regularly travelled into outer space while also visiting a microworld (see Great and Small) and other Dimensions. But Fox also wrote about their battles against Alien invaders and powerful Supervillains on Earth, and these became the focus of later stories by other authors. Fox also introduced supernatural adversaries (see Fantasy), such as the sorcerer Felix Faust, and showed the League altruistically engaging in mundane adventures in response to letters requesting their assistance. After initially meeting in a nondescript Underground cave, Snapper Carr's betrayal required the League to establish a new headquarters in an Earth-orbiting Space Station until they briefly relocated to Detroit, though they later constructed two other orbiting headquarters.

After decades of recurring and extensive changes in their membership, sometimes including up to fourteen members, the recent tendency has been to limit the lineup to the League's original seven superheroes, with occasional substitutions like the African-American Cyborg or Hawkgirl to improve the League's diversity. Still, chronicling the innumerable versions of the Justice League that have been assembled in Comics, Television, Cinema, and Videogames would be an exhausting task. At one point the group was retitled Justice League International, and some related teams have been created, including Justice League Europe, Extreme Justice, Justice League Task Force, and Justice League Dark.

The Justice League has a mixed record of success in television and on film. An animated series aimed at younger viewers with a retitled Justice League, Super Friends (1973-1974) (which see for its several successors), featured Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and newly introduced teenage sidekicks, with occasional appearances by other Justice League members. There have been several subsequent animated series featuring the Justice League, including Justice League (2001-2006). A live-action television movie, Justice League of America (1997), was widely regarded as disastrously awful, while the would-be blockbuster Justice League (2017), despite having a more talented cast and superior special effects, proved to be a disappointment, both aesthetically and financially, and torpedoed plans for additional feature films starring the Justice League.

The success of the Justice League directly led to the creation of another popular group of superheroes, as Marvel Comics's Stan Lee was asked by his superiors to come up with his own version of the Justice League, which he called the Fantastic Four; indeed, as many have noted, the cover of Fantastic Four #1 (1961) is an obvious imitation of the first Justice League cover for Brave and the Bold #28. Two years later, Marvel debuted another superhero group modelled on the Justice League, the Avengers – eventually translated to cinema in The Avengers (2012) – and since that time, both DC and Marvel have introduced many other groups of established and new superheroes which all were arguably inspired by the Justice League. Thus, it seems that celebrations of the efficacy of teamwork, rather than individual effort, have increasingly become the norm in the adventures of superheroes, which could be said to reflect the realities of contemporary society. [GW]

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