<p>They've been called The World's Greatest Super-Heroes, but as anyone who's followed the adventures of the Justice League of America for any length of time will be able to tell you, occasionally the definition of "World's Greatest" seems a little... stretched. <p>While no-one could deny Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern their due, the JLA has also played host to some less impressive members in its 50-plus year history. Here are 10 of the World's Less Than Great Super-Heroes who you'd hope had monitor duty on the day that Darkseid attacked.
According to the title of his short-lived solo series, he was "The Ultimate Man," with the first issue cover calling him "a hero for the new millennium... if he <em>lives</em> that long," a tagline that becomes particularly ironic when you consider that he sacrificed himself to help Superman save the world in Grant Morrison's "World War III" storyline in the year 2000, theoretically a year before the new millennium actually began. <p>For an Ultimate Man, though, he proved particularly ineffective as a Justice League member; beyond his death, Aztek spent the majority of his time on the team on monitor duty, where he discovered that his magical suit of armor and superhuman abilities were in part the result of Lex Luthor's patronage, making him an unwilling potential traitor to the team. Maybe he'll be revived in The New 52 and have a better chance of living up to his original billing.
Alas, poor William Glenmorgan, whose tenure on the Justice League was marked by false starts and truncated endings. Originally slated to join the team as part of James Robinson's second <b>Justice League</b> monthly which ended up becoming the <i>Justice League: Cry for Justice</i> miniseries Glenmorgan became a full-fledged member of the team soon after Robinson took over the <b>Justice League of America</b> series, becoming oddly left in the background as other characters and plots took center stage he was almost entirely missing from the penultimate "Omega" storyline - with the series being cancelled to make way for The New 52 relaunch before he had his day in the sun. <p>You'd think that an intelligent ape with both size-changing abilities and a healing factor would've been the kind of character who'd have dominated any superhero team he was on, but apparently even he can't compete with Supergirl, Dick Grayson as Batman and a <i>Brightest Day</i>-empowered Jade. One day, Congorilla, your time will come.
One of the few JLAers who also holds membership in the Superman Revenge Squad like Batman wasn't actually a silent partner in that latter organization, let's be honest Maxima's time with the Justice League was filled with flirtation (she initially joined the team as part of her long-range and more than a little convoluted plan to seduce Superman, and then fixated on Captain Atom before having an affair with Amazing Man) and embarrassment, whether it was being rejected by countless men or constantly overpowered by villains that she should've easily been able to deal with considering her ridiculous power set. (For those who don't remember Maxima, she has super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, the ability to fly, super-hypnosis and telepathy <i>and</i> telekinesis.) <p>Considering how poorly treated she was by writers during her tenure with the team, it's no wonder that she ended up giving up the good guy act and abandoning Earth for her birth planet Almerac.
Introduced as one of the Justice League Detroit, Gypsy started life as a bizarro Kitty Pryde, a teen girl able to camouflage herself into her surroundings via illusion casting powers that also, apparently, allow her to project images into people's minds. <p>Surviving the end of that team (unlike two of her teammates), she later went on to find her family murdered by Despero, forcing her back into superhero life as member of the Conglomerate and Justice League Task Force, as well as the Birds of Prey... but whether any of that hides the fact that her main reasons to exist in recent years had become (a) to give J'Onn J'Onzz an adoptive daughter to moon over or (b) be mind-controlled and forced to fight the Justice League (which she's done on at least two different occasions) is open to question.
It's easy to see why DC writers might have expected Red Tornado to be more successful than he eventually turned out to be. After all, Marvel was having a great deal of success with their introduction of the Vision over in <i>Avengers</i>, and if he had proven that even androids could cry, then Reddy would go even further, proving that androids could feel angst-ridden about anything and everything that ever happened to them. <p>As if the distinction of being the first emo robot in comics wasn't enough to make him a particularly annoying presence even on a team that specialized in annoying presences (hi, Green Arrow and Snapper Carr!), there's also the matter of his costumes: that Zatanna thought it was a good idea to give him striped leggings and an arrow on his forehead pointing to his nose still makes me wonder if she was playing some cruel joke to see if Reddy had mastered a sense of humor just yet. <p>No matter how many retcons the character went through he's not a robot, he's a host body for the Tornado Champion! He's not a host body for the Tornado Champion, he's the Air Elemental! (and so on) nothing could make poor Red Tornado interesting enough to compare to his inspiration.
True, it may be unfair to single out just one of the short-lived Justice League from the pages of <i>52</i> for special derision, but thanks to that series' real-time release, it's worth pointing out that Jon Standing Bear only managed to last two weeks as the latest user of the mystical Manitou Stone before meeting an untimely demise at the hands... or fins, I guess, of Skeets. <p>That's right: Super-Chief was such a bad Justice Leaguer that he was killed two weeks after he became a superhero by a flying robot that not only looked like a football with fins, but was also being controlled by an evil worm.
You might not remember this mysterious member of the League from the early 2000s, but you shouldn't feel bad about that. Introduced during Joe Kelly's "Obsidian Age" storyline, Faith turned out to be much more of a plot device/deus ex machina than an actual character despite attempts by Kelly, Roger Stern and John Byrne (who handled the character when she moved over to his <i>Doom Patrol</i> revamp after becoming a vampire don't ask), no matter what the threat, Faith would turn out to have some unexpected power or ability to overcome it, running the risk of making the other members of the team seem less important or, far worse, surplus to requirements. <p>And shouldn't the JLA be all about teamwork, ultimately...?
Yes, the Wonder Twins. Worse, the Wonder Twins taken seriously, because, yes, the Wonder Twins were actually part of the Justice League in post-Crisis continuity, thanks to the 1990s <b>Extreme Justice</b> series, which introduced Zan and Jayna as alien twins escaping a despotic regime by coming to Earth and activating their Wonder Twin powers. (Sadly, Gleek was not included in this revival.) <p>Shape of an unnecessary moment of fan service? Form of a failed attempt at nostalgia? Sadly, both. Zan and Jayna's revival failed to win fans or attract readers, and outside of appearances in <i>Young Justice</i>, the two faded back into obscurity in very little time.
Saddled with a name that suggested pandering to the Image Comics dynamic of the early 1990s no less an authority than Grant Morrison commented that "he <i>does</i> appear to have based his super identity on some alarming rectal trauma" in his <i>Supergods</i> book of last year and a confused debut that appears to have been based on the Martian Manhunter stealing his identity as the result of mind control and then being rescued by the Manhunter and Justice League from the very gem that gives him supernatural control over the dead, the fact that Bloodwynd made it into the League at all seems like a victory of sorts. <p>Sadly, it was a victory that was short-lived as the character placed himself on inactive duty after failing to help the team in a mission, further underscoring his odd (and never explained) tendency towards passivity, a trait that rarely makes for fan favorites. Outside of occasional cameos, he has remained in comic book limbo for more than a decade.
If one character can come to signify something greater than him or herself, it's possible that the original Vibe has accidentally become the avatar for everything that was misguided with the Justice League Detroit era. <p>You can see the reasoning: He was a character tied to a trend that was in its death throes as he appeared (breakdancing his first appearance was a double-page spread showing off his moves) who had both a ham-fisted attempt at social relevance (He was trying to make a better life for himself after leaving the Los Lobos gang, with writer Gerry Conway daring to expose the connections between well respected musical groups and Detroit gang culture when others were too afraid) and inexplicable dialogue quirk (he had a fake Mexican accent that he put on around white people) at his core, as well as an amazing original costume that mixed MC Hammer-style pants with shades, soul patch and vest. <p>Bearing all that in mind, it's difficult to imagine what made Vibe Justice League material other than being in the right place in the right time. And yet... there's something charming about Paco Ramone's <i>original</i> short-lived existence, whether it was his overconfidence or excitement about being a superhero in the first place. Vibe also has a particularly important place in Justice League history as being the first Leaguer to be killed in the line of duty, launching an unfortunate trend that would continue for a long time afterwards. If only he'd joined up with a different team that dealt with smaller problems, perhaps Vibe would still be with us today, and perhaps he would've evolved into a character people remembered as more than a gimmick gone wrong.