Justice League’ Through The Years

By: Henry Hanks, Contributor     @hankstv / tvshenry@gmail.com

With the arrival of the long-awaited “Justice League” movie this weekend (and Justice League Day on Saturday), it’s worth looking back on the long comic book history of DC Comics’ best and brightest team.

As editor Julius Schwartz worked on rebooting DC in the early years of the Silver Age, he decided to put the biggest DC characters together in one team. DC already had the rights to the name “Justice Society of America,” which went back to the Golden Age, but he didn’t like the name. “Society,” he said sounded like a social club… instead he went with “league.” And thus the Justice League of America was born in 1960.

As Schwartz put it, not only did he save DC Comics (with the reboot of the Flash in “Showcase” #4), he saved Marvel Comics too, as Marvel’s publisher Martin Goodman told Stan Lee to create a JLA-esque group: that would turn out to become "The Fantastic Four." 

Over the next 25 years, the JLA took on one villain and one alien menace after another, including further exploration of the “multiverse,” which had been introduced in the “Flash” comics. Thus began a series of “Crisis” storylines as the League encountered the various heroes and challenges on the many earths.

The League also made its way to Saturday mornings, first in the 1960s and then as the “Super Friends” in the 1970s and ‘80s over nine seasons. This latter animated series introduced an entire generation to the DC universe (and the “Justice League” would again return to animation in the ‘00s with two critically-acclaimed animated series on Cartoon Network).

This all came to a head with the classic miniseries “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which brought the original DC continuity to an end.

In 1987, there was a brand new humorous take on the group with “Justice League International,” led by Batman, the rebellious Guy Gardner, the wacky Blue Beetle and more.

After years of the League being filled with B-, C- and D-list heroes, the original group reunited in 1997’s “JLA” series, written by Grant Morrison. Another new “Justice League of America” title launched in 2006, after the “Infinite Crisis” mega-storyline.

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee then took on the League, launching DC’s New 52 version in 2011, while five years later saw DC's "Rebirth." Through the last 20 years, the League’s membership has stayed more or less consistent to the original group in the early 1960s (and Wonder Woman’s original membership was placed back into the Post-Crisis continuity).

In the meantime, bringing the JLA into live action has proved quite difficult (as opposed to its many animated series and direct-to-video films). There was a failed, low-budget, cheesy pilot 20 years ago, and a movie called “Justice League: Mortal” that was to be directed by “Mad Max’s” George Miller. Armie Hammer would have starred as Batman, Adam Brody as the Flash and Common as Green Lantern. The entire thing was scrapped due to the 2007 writer’s strike, however.

Now, 10 years later, thanks to the DC Extended Universe of films, we finally have a “Justice League” movie. After 57 years, it’s been a long time coming, and I'm sure you'll all join us in hoping that the super team that started it all, smashes at the box office this weekend!

At this point, I think it's fair to ask... why are you still reading this? GO! Watch the Movie!