League of Leagues1 of 12With the new animated series Justice League Action debuting in December here in the U.S., and Justice League of America, a second ongoing title debuting in 2017, to say nothing of the upcoming movie that’s still a year out, the Justice League is at the forefront of superhero landscape. Bringing together the DC universe’s best and brightest, the League has had many iconic iterations, and is a highlight in the careers of numerous comic book industry legends.
With that in mind, Newsarama has pored through DC lore to find the top 10 creators/creative teams who helped make the Justice League the institution it is today.
Brad Meltzer2 of 12In many ways, the writer of The Tenth Justice helped establish much of the tone of not just the Justice League, but the modern DC universe, with his controversial miniseries Identity Crisis. As Meltzer injected a sense of corruption to the heart of the Silver Age with Dr. Light’s rape of Sue Dibny (not to mention his subsequent mind-wiping by Zatanna and the Justice League, followed by the mind-wiping of Batman when he threatened to expose the errant Leaguers), Identity Crisis ended with a body count that was then unrivaled in most Big Two event books.
While Meltzer might be largely remembered for his darkening of the DC universe, he also brought some light and grandeur to his work with his run of Justice League of America, which brought about an expanded team lineup featuring ex-JSA member Hawkgirl, Roy Harper’s ascension from sidekick to Leaguer as the new Red Arrow, Black Canary’s promotion to Justice League chairperson, and the rise and fall of a newly-human Red Tornado. Meltzer’s Justice League of America run was also notable for a sprawling crossover featuring the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes, as well as the return of Wally West as the Flash.
Gerry Conway3 of 12Having made his mark at Marvel following Stan Lee’s iconic run on Amazing Spider-Man, Gerry Conway would go on to write more than 85 issues of Justice League of America — and during that tenure, he changed the makeup of the League tremendously.
With the League rewriting its charter to allow only full-time members into its ranks, the days of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were over, as Aquaman led a team of second-stringers and teen up-and-comers, including Zatanna, Martian Manhunter, Vixen, Elongated Man, Gypsy, Steel, and Vibe. The “Detroit League” was never seen as a rousing success, but Conway’s legacy wound up being ahead of its time, with characters from that era such as Vibe, Vixen and now Steel getting new leases on life in The CW television universe.
Joseph Barbera & William Hanna4 of 12“Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…” Every generation has “their” version of DC’s greatest heroes, but few Justice League creators had as much of an impact on the public consciousness than Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, the executive producers behind the 13-year animated series The Super-Friends.
While considered as hokey and comically unsophisticated by today’s standards, The Super-Friends was an entire generation’s entree to the Justice League, introducing such iconic elements as the Hall of Justice, the Legion of Doom (and its ominous swamp headquarters), and Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna (and their pet monkey, Gleek). Even the series’ more culturally questionable characters, such as Apache Chief, El Dorado and Samurai, were at the time considered successful attempts to make the show’s cast more inclusive.
Super-Friends not only catapulted the Justice League into the national spotlight, but solidified DC’s reputation as the go-to brand for superhero animation, paving the way for decades of series such as Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Geoff Johns & Jim Lee5 of 12Following the events of the 2011 series Flashpoint, the world was about to discover a brand-new DC Universe — and its flagship title was none other than DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee’s take on Justice League. Unfettered by previous continuity and marked by Lee’s ultra-rendered new designs, Justice League was a big, broad superhero blockbuster that told readers to leave their expectations at the door. The first arc of Justice League introduced a team of superheroes who were distrusted by the world around them, and who often didn’t play nice with one another — indeed, Johns’ first issue primarily focused on Batman and Green Lantern’s bickering banter, only to be interrupted by a surprisingly punchy Superman.
Lee’s larger-than-life artwork proved to be a huge hook for this series, from his smoldering take on Aquaman to his powerful and potent rendition of Wonder Woman.
Perhaps even more notable is Johns’ revamping of the traditional “Big Seven” lineup, with the promotion of Cyborg from staple Teen Titan to full-time Justice Leaguer, marking an important step in diversity for one of comic books’ biggest publishers.
Dwayne McDuffie6 of 12But one of the biggest proponents in diversity and longevity for the Justice League is none other than Dwayne McDuffie. Working in both comic books and television, McDuffie had a long and storied and even tumultuous history with the Justice League.
In the TV sphere, McDuffie helped inspire an entire generation of viewers with his work on the animated Justice League series, which firmly established heroes like John Stewart and Hawkgirl as A-list Leaguers before expanding into a who’s who of DC superstars with Justice League Unlimited. Writing iconic episodes such as “Starcrossed,” “The Once and Future Thing” and “Question Authority,” McDuffie proved to have a deft understanding of both the big-name League members as well as lesser-known superheroes such as the Question, Huntress and Batman Beyond’s Warhawk.
But McDuffie’s tenure on the actual Justice League of America title would prove to be more fraught with tension — his book was dogged by criticism after he reportedly was denied the use of numerous established heroes, leading him to write a book he considered “Cap’s Kooky Quartet… of course, in this case Captain America isn’t available, either.” Yet McDuffie’s work on the book was ahead of its time in terms of pioneering diversity, with characters of color such as John Stewart, Firestorm, and Vixen all playing major roles on the team.
While McDuffie passed away in 2011, his work and his message was undoubtedly a key factor in today’s conversations about inclusivity in comic books.
Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire7 of 12Bwa-ha-ha! While the Justice League was initially conceived as the creme de la creme of the DC lineup, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire turned the concept on its head with their run on Justice League International. Given none of the major league Leaguers thanks to their post-Crisis relaunches, the team took a radical new approach to one of DC’s flagship titles by injecting a previously unheard-of sense of humor in their stories.
Leveraging Maguire’s nearly elastic mastery of facial expressions, the creative team produced some of the weirdest but most memorable moments in the League’s history, including Booster Gold and Blue Beetle’s bromance as the League’s biggest bunglers, as well as the hot-headed Guy Gardner getting knocked out by Batman in one punch.
This new approach proved to be popular and long-lasting, earning the series a Harvey Award nomination as well as several spinoff titles, including Justice League America, Justice League Europe, Justice League Task Force (which went on to become a Street Fighter-esque fighting game years before Injustice), Extreme Justice and Justice League Quarterly.
Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire’s concepts were so beloved that the JLI were revisited in several miniseries in the early 2000s, such as Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League. On paper, this concept might have seemed too goofy to be true, but Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire were laughing the most — all the way to the bank.
Alex Ross8 of 12Few artists have had as much of an impact on DC’s aesthetic than Alex Ross, whose painted portrayals of the Justice League have been amongst the definitive depictions of the characters for years.
Beginning with his work co-authoring the seminal Elseworlds saga Kingdom Come, Ross brought a gravity and humanity to his artwork, as an aging Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman return to the public eye, eager to tamp down an increasingly violent next generation of superheroes. Ross’s use of real friends and family members lent veracity to characters such as the troubled Superman or the enraged Wonder Woman, culminating in gigantic, world-shaking set pieces that evoked the Biblical book of Revelations.
Ross later returned to the DC universe with his acclaimed work with Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite, Justice, looking almost like a live-action version of the old Super-Friends cartoons, featuring a cavalcade of Justice Leaguers going head-to-head with Lex Luthor, Brainiac and Gorilla Grodd’s Legion of Doom.
Ross also collaborated with Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini to produce several oversized books featuring members of the League, including Superman: Peace on Earth, Batman: War on Crime, Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth and Shazam: Power of Hope.
Mark Waid9 of 12Mark Waid ushered the Justice League through some of their greatest stories over the years, particularly as the writer of Kingdom Come, which took a look at DC’s dystopian future while simultaneously reaffirming all the values the League had come to embody. Yet Waid’s examination with artist Alex Ross at the future dynasties of the DC universe was only the beginning of the writer’s tenure with the Justice League.
In 1996, Waid would team up with Fabian Nicieza to write Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare, which reunited DC’s “Big Seven” lineup to stop Doctor Destiny and Know Man from taking over the world. Waid’s knowledge of the Justice League and their team dynamics led him to guest writing stints on JLA, including a story about the junior members of the League quashing a resurgence by the White Martians, as well as the iconic “Tower of Babel” storyline, which showed the League grapple with traps and weaponry designed in secret by a paranoid Batman. This storyline proved to be so popular that it was loosely adapted in 2003 into the animated feature Justice League: Doom.
Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky & Julius Schwartz10 of 12Hot off DC’s sci-fi re-imagining of core characters such as the Flash and Green Lantern, editor Julius Schwartz decided the company’s next revamp would be of the Justice Society of America. With writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky hired to create the group’s adventures, the team — renamed as the Justice League of America — made its debut in 1960, featuring a striking cover of the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter battling the alien starfish Starro the Conqueror. The result was a best-selling phenomenon that went on to define team books not just at DC Comics, but for superhero comic books publishers everywhere. (Indeed, the creation of the Justice League did not go unnoticed over at the nascent Marvel Comics, where Stan Lee co-created the Fantastic Four in response to Gardner, Sekowsky, and Schwartz’s runaway hit.) But the building blocks for all things Justice League began with this creative team’s eight-year run, including the “Big Seven” lineup, a team-up with the Justice Society, clashes with Earth-3’s Crime Syndicate of America, and the introduction of prototypical League sidekick Snapper Carr.
Grant Morrison & Howard Porter11 of 12How do you top the creators of the Justice League on this list? By creating the best Justice League stories ever told. Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s iconic run on JLA might just be considered the platonic ideal of DC team books, featuring a mix of classic heroes such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman with a number of legacy heroes such as Wally West, Kyle Rayner, and Connor Hawke as the Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow, respectively.
While he was a critical darling for his work on Animal Man and Doom Patrol, it was JLA that cemented Morrison’s career as a bankable A-lister, as the writer pushed the Justice League into tense, mind-blowing scenarios, including battling a super-team composed entirely of White Martians, a tense interstellar hostage situation introducing the dangerous villain Prometheus, and a time-travel epic featuring a dystopian future ruled by Darkseid.
Morrison also expanded the League’s lineup as similar to a Greek pantheon, adding in heroes such as Steel, Huntress, Big Barda, and Plastic Man to the mix, often with great results.
It’s a testament to Howard Porter’s gifts as an artist that he was able to give Morrison’s madcap scripts such a sense of energy and power, with scenes like Superman literally wrestling an angel seemingly exploding off the page. If you can read just one DC team book in your life, it’s hard to think of a better example than Morrison and Porter’s JLA.
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