How do you make a superteam out of a disparate group of the world’s greatest heroes? It isn’t always easy, but since its introduction nearly sixty years ago, the Justice League seems to come together whenever the world needs it to. We’ll soon see the big screen versions of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes join forces in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, so as we eagerly await this new cut of the team’s cinematic origin story, we thought it might be fun to take a look at how the team has come together in the comics. From alien invasions to Arctic embarrassments, here is how (almost) every Justice League was formed!
The Original League
Why They Formed: It depends on who you ask and when you ask them. The official story is that Batman and the Flash suggested that the heroes form a permanent group after successfully teaming up to stop an invading group of aliens. Years later, the League said they had secretly formed months earlier after repelling a separate alien invasion from the White Martians.
When They Formed: Again, it’s complicated. The League first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #28, their first official origin was told in 1962’s Justice League of America #9 and their “secret” origin was revealed in Justice League of America #144.
Original Roster: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern.
Fun Fact: The original lineup hung with Snapper Carr, a teenager who liked to snap his fingers. That was his entire bit.
Justice League Detroit
Why They Formed: After the original Justice League barely survived the Earth/Mars War, Aquaman decided that the original team was too distracted by their hometown duties. Arthur disbanded the League and recruited a new group of misfit members, hoping the fresh perspectives would return the team to their former glory.
When They Formed: 1984’s Justice League of America Annual #2
Original Roster: Aquaman, Vibe, Vixen, Steel, Elongated Man, Gypsy, Martian Manhunter and Zatanna.
Fun Fact: At least half this lineup have been reoccurring characters on The CW’s The Flash.
Justice League International
Why They Formed: When Darkseid and Gordon Godfrey came together to discredit the heroes of the world, Doctor Fate realized that they needed a new Justice League as a shining light during dark times. It wasn’t long before Max Lord manipulated the situation, secretly molding the new team into becoming his own Justice League International.
When They Formed: Legends #6
The Roster: Batman, Captain Marvel, Black Canary, Mister Miracle, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Doctor Light, Guy Gardner and Doctor Fate.
Fun Fact: One time Batman knocked out Guy Gardner during a team meeting. The fight ended in one punch, it was awesome and the other heroes are still talking about it to this day.
Justice League Europe
Why They Formed: When the League was beginning to get too big, Max Lord had a classic businessman idea—franchising! And thus, Justice League Europe was born!
When They Formed: Justice League International #24
The Roster: Wonder Woman, the Flash, Power Girl, Rocket Red, Animal Man, Captain Atom, Elongated Man and Metamorpho.
Fun Fact: At one point, the team chose an abandoned European castle as their headquarters, which is a cool yet spooky idea for a superhero lair.
Justice League Antarctica
Why They Formed: A group of unemployed super-villains decided to try their hands at being heroes. Max Lord decided to stick them where they could do the least amount of damage—Antarctica.
When They Formed: 1990’s Justice League of America Annual #4
The Roster: Cluemaster, Big Sir, Clock King, Major Disaster, G’nort, Multi-Man and Mighty Bruce.
Fun Fact: The team battled a group of penguins and lost. Max Lord immediately disbanded the Antarctica League with a memo that simply said, “Never mind.”
The Nineties League
Why They Formed: After Justice League International fell apart, Superman stepped in and told Lord that his days of manipulating heroes was over. Superman took the remnants of the JLI, added some new members and formed a new Justice League for the nineties.
When They Formed: 1992’s Justice League America #61
The Roster: Superman, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Maxima, Bloodwynd, Guy Gardner, Fire and Ice.
Fun Fact: This version of the League is best known for briefly repelling Doomsday in the iconic Death of Superman storyline.
Justice League Task Force
Why They Formed: Justice League Task Force was formed when representatives from the United Nations felt having their very own superhero strike team would be beneficial for sensitive operations. The team had a rotating roster for much of their existence.
When They Formed: Justice League Task Force #1
The Roster: Martian Manhunter, Nightwing, the Flash, Gypsy and Aquaman.
Fun Fact: The group had their own video game for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, which is pretty cool even if it had almost nothing to do with the comic.
Why They Formed: What? Justice League Task Force wasn’t nineties enough for you? Captain Atom didn’t agree with the way the mainstream Justice League was being run, so he broke off and started his own group. Blue Beetle reasoned that they had as much a right to the name as anyone, but since it was the nineties, they were nicknamed EXTREME Justice.
When They Formed: Extreme Justice #0
The Roster: Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Maxima, Amazing Man and Captain Atom.
Fun EXTREME Fact: The team had a friendly rivalry with the core Justice League team, which was being lead by Wonder Woman at the time. Trying to compete with Diana is a bit delusional, but we all did stupid things in the nineties.
Grant Morrison’s JLA
Why They Formed: After a brief trial run where the team fought a being called Know Man (Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare), the Justice League reformed to take on a group of aliens known as the Hyperclan. (Check out Rosie Knight’s amazing breakdown of Morrison’s JLA for a lot more on this unique team.)
When They Formed: JLA #1
The Roster: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Martian Manhunter.
Fun Fact: Due to some late nineties shenanigans going on in their solo titles, some of the League’s members went through some interesting phases during the early arcs of this book. For example, Superman had an electric blue look, Flash was replaced by a dark timeline doppelganger and Hippolyta took her daughter’s place as Wonder Woman.
League for a Week
Why They Formed: The Justice League disbanded, and Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman had taken a year off, so Firestorm decided to form a team of his own. Unfortunately, Firestorm’s JLA lasted only a week and broke up after a disastrous battle with Skeets.
When They Formed: 52 #24
The Roster: Firestorm, Super-Chief, Ambush Bush, Firehawk and Bulleteer.
Fun Fact: Firestorm invited Green Arrow to join this iteration of the League, but the Emerald Archer told him to lose his number. Harsh.
One Year Later League
Why They Formed: After the events of Infinite Crisis, Batman learned the importance of the phrase “divided we fall.” The Dark Knight patched up his differences with Superman and Wonder Woman, and the Trinity began voting for who would be the newest recruits for a reformed Justice League.
When They Formed: 2006’s Justice League of America #0
The Roster: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Black Canary, Red Arrow, Green Lantern, Black Lightning, Vixen, Red Tornado and Hawkgirl.
Fun Fact: At one point, Green Arrow and Green Lantern took over, looking to take the team in a different direction. Of course, in fairness, Superman was off-planet at the time and everyone thought Batman was dead.
The New 52 League
Why They Formed: After banding together to fight Darkseid, the heroes of this rebooted DC Universe decided to remain together to become Earth’s first line of defense. Batman reasoned that it would help the general public become less afraid of superheroes.
When They Formed: 2011’s Justice League #1
The Roster: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman.
Fun Fact: Flash wanted to call the group the Super Seven, but fortunately, he was overruled. (Imagine getting excited over a movie called “Zack Snyder’s Super Seven”? It sounds like a discount movie theater.)
Justice League Dark
Why They Formed: Madame Xanadu brought the DC Universe’s greatest mystics together when she began receiving visions of magic-based threats. The band of magicians and misfits realized that banding together was the only way to save the world and the Justice League Dark was born!
When They Formed: 2011’s Justice League Dark #1
The Roster: Shade, Zatanna, Constantine, Deadman and Madame Xanadu.
Fun Fact: The current iteration of the group lives in the Justice League’s basement, with Wonder Woman acting as their group liaison. She’s the only one tough enough to go down those stairs and see the freaky stuff they’re up to.
Justice League Odyssey
Why They Formed: After Brainiac was seemingly killed, dozens of worlds he had stolen were unleashed and coalesced into the mysterious Ghost Sector—a universe enveloped in a maelstrom of destructive energy. Determined to investigate, and to find the once lost Tamaran, an unlikely group of heroes form a cosmic Justice League on an odyssey through uncharted space…with all of reality at stake.
When They Formed: 2018’s Justice League Odyssey #1
The Roster: Jessica Cruz, Cyborg, Starfire, Azrael…and Darkseid?!?
Fun Fact: Spinning out of the events of Dark Nights: Metal and Justice League: No Justice, the Darkseid of Justice League Odyssey is noticeably younger than the Lord of Apokolips you’re used to saying. One could even say he’s good looking. Though maybe not out loud.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Why They Formed: While we don’t know the entire plot of the movie yet, we can safely say that Snyder’s Justice League would never have formed without the hard work and passion from fans like you.
When They Formed: Thursday, March 18, 2021. Are you ready?
The Roster: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Cyborg, the Flash, Aquaman…and maybe a surprise or two.
Fun Fact: With over four hours of footage, you’ll never see a superhero film quite like this one.
Which version of the Justice League is your favorite? And are you excited for Zack Snyder’s Justice League to make its HBO Max debut? Let us know your thoughts over in the DC Community!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.