The Justice League has had a long list of storied members dating back to the original team, the big seven if you will. But they aren't the reason I love the League. I love the League so very much, and it's those underappreciated team members that make me love reading JLA comics. So I wanted to write something to call out those work-a-day leaguers who never get the love they deserve. Here's to you guys; you kick butt.
I almost left Zatanna off the list, because I view her as a full-on Justice Leaguer. Like, if I'm adding to the classic seven, Z is my personal pick for number eight.
Zatanna is the daughter of golden age superhero Zatara, a crime fighting magician during World War II. Zatanna’s mother was a member of the Homo Magi, a race of magical human beings. As such, she can weave magical spells on her own.
Her skills work through backwards talking magic, which is fun. She first appeared as a guest star in a bunch of DC Comics, meeting Hawkman, The Atom, Green Lantern, Batman, and the Elongated Man along the way. As such, she wound up helping the Justice League numerous times before she finally officially joined.
She's been a solid team member ever since, but for now, "No ot eht txen yrtne!"
I have a huge soft spot for the Death of Superman. Like, I know it isn't super duper well written, but I read it very young, and it has some fun ideas going on in it, especially in the "Reign of" and "Return of" portions.
After Superman died fighting Doomsday, four new heroes took over for him – the cloned teenage Superboy, the alien Eradicator, the evil Cyborg Superman, and John Henry Irons, the man of Steel. John was a weapons engineer working at AmerTek Industries, which sure is an evil sounding name, isn't it.
But when his weapons started to fall into the hands of street gangs, he took off for Metropolis, where he eventually was saved by Superman. So when Supes died, John built himself a weaponized suit and decided to fight crime in his place.
Yeah, he's basically Iron Man. Which is sweet. He operated as the tech guy in Morrison's JLA run for a time, serving an integral part of the team.
13. Jesse Quick
Study up on your math, kids. It'll help you. Johnny Chambers did, and he discovered a mathematical formula to give himself super speed, becoming the All-Star Squadron member Johnny Quick. He married fellow Squadroner Liberty Belle, and they had a lovely daughter, Jesse.
Johnny taught her his formula, and she took on a new role as super speedstress Jesse Quick. She was so good at this that she was Wally West's handpicked successor to join the Titans when they returned to active duty. She worked hard on that team and, despite some personal problems, lasted until they disbanded. She later took on her mother's identity and became the new Liberty Belle with the reformed Justice Society of America post – One Year Later.
There she found the love of her life, Rick Tyler, aka Hourman. They became a stunningly cute couple who are among my favorites of all time. She would later take back her Jesse Quick identity after Barry Allen's return, eventually joining the JLA itself. That's right, she's served with the Titans, JLA, and Justice Society.
Lady's a triple threat.
Okay, okay, I'll throw a New 52 Justice Leaguer on here. But not one from the main team, one who served in the Justice League of America and the Justice League United.
Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, is a personal favorite DC character of mine. The step daughter of Pat Duggan, aka Stripsey, the sidekick to the Star-Spangled Kid, Court stole the Kid's Cosmic Converter belt and took on a role as the new Star-Spangled Kid. She kept this role until Starman Jack Knight gave her his cosmic rod. At that point, she took the name Stargirl. Working with the JSA and Pat – now in a big armored suit and calling himself S.T.R.I.P.E. – Courtney became Blue Valley's greatest hero since Kid Flash.
She was tapped to work with the JLA under Steve Trevor's leadership. She was picked by Amanda Waller as the team's public face for PR purposes, underscoring the team's true purpose as a possible hit squad designed to take out the regular Justice League should the need arise.
After that team disbanded, she joined many of its members on the Justice League United, where she worked until that team disbanded, as well.
11. The Guardian
Jim Harper was a New York City policeman who grew sick of every criminal he tried to catch getting away scot free. So he donned a costume and took to the streets as The Guardian.
Jim worked with the teenage Newsboy Legion as a protector of the home front during World War II, and also served in the All-Star Squadron during that time. His child wards grew up and took positions in the genetics lab known as Cadmus, where they managed to transfer Harper's brain into a new, younger cloned body, allowing him to take on his role as The Guardian once more.
He spent years fighting crime in Metropolis before retiring for a time. He later came out of retirement during the New Krypton affair to act as the police liaison to the superhero community, eventually leading to a place in the Justice League.
A brief place, but a solid one.
10. Elongated Man
So I'm a serious old-school Flash fan. Like, Barry Allen, Wally West, Jay Garrick, even that one-year stretch of Bart Allen Flash we got before he died and came back. And, as a result, I've always loved the Elongated Man.
Ralph Dibny was a young man fascinated by contortionists. And so he decided to track down the source of their miraculous abilities. He found a substance called Gingold that gave stretching abilities to whoever drank it. Ralph drained an entire bottle of the stuff and became The Elongated Man. Not…not the BEST name, but what are ya gonna do?
He became fast friends (heh) with the Flash, and eventually got the nod to join the JLA, which was the right call. He served as the team's comic relief and one of its more cunning minds, as Ralph's detective skills are and have always been shockingly on point.
And when you're on a team with Batman, being the one doing the detective work is damn impressive.
9. Mr. Miracle
I've never been the hugest New Gods fan, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a definite place in my heart for the Jack Kirby creations. And my favorite one of all would have to be the death defying escape artist of Apokolips, Scott Free, aka Mr. Miracle.
Scott was born a New God on the planet of New Genesis, but his dad traded him for Darkseid's son as a measure of peace. So Scott got thrown in a deep, dark garbage hole, where he became the prisoner of Granny Goodness. Scott spent his entire life planning his escape, and he eventually did it.
He escaped with his girlfriend-turned-wife and Apokoliptian native, Big Barda of the Female Furies. She's great, and the duo are literally the best couple in comics. Like, those are my relationship goals, right there. And with my girlfriend's kickass-ness, all I need to do now is learn how to get out of handcuffs, and we're halfway there.
Scott eventually joined The Justice League International, where he brought his buddy Oberon to serve as a helper. There he served as a major presence on the team and a founding figure.
Grant Morrison's Justice League is one of the best runs on the book of all time, if not THE best.
New World Order is a badass opening, Rock of Ages is fist-pumpingly fun, One Million is one of the best event comics of all time, and World War III makes me tear up every time I read it. And the characters he added to the League were welcome additions to the team's roster.
My favorite was Morrison and Mark Millar’s (Kick-Ass, Kingsman) creation, Aztek: the Ultimate Man. Trained in secret for years, Aztek has been sent out to save the world from a legendary evil, world-ending force. Aztek finds himself in the city of Vanity, a place full of greed and corruption with a deep, dark underbelly. Although his solo series lasted less than a year, it was fresh and fun and a great change of pace. Wanting to finish Aztek's story even after the series’ cancelation, Morrison brought him into the JLA, where he eventually fulfilled his destiny.
His destiny as a true hero.
Stop what you are doing right now. Do you already own the Showcase Presents: Metamorpho collection that DC put out a while back? No? Buy that. Buy that thing right flippin' now. Some of the best late silver age comics I've ever read. Incredible. And they left me with a burning love for Rex Mason.
Mason was a globe trotting adventurer who encountered the Orb of Ra on one of his journeys. The orb mutated him horribly, but gave him the power to convert his body into any element. Using this power, he became a hero, while trying to gage the motives of his possibly villainous boss, Simon Stagg, and winning over the affection of his daughter, Sapphire.
Rex has gone through long lists of horrible things, and has died multiple times, but he always comes out okay. After a time, he gained a position with the Justice League International's across-the-pond expansion, the Justice League Europe. Heck, he was half the reason I picked up the first JLE issue when I found it (Rocket Red was the other half).
Metamorpho, may you eventually find peace.
6. The Ray
Sorry, sorry, I just love The Ray. There's a small group of DC characters who I love, but no one really gives any respect to, and The Ray is one of those. Raymond Terrill was born with a condition that didn't allow him any exposure to sunlight. Or so he thought. Turns out, he'd been lied to. His real father was World War II hero The Ray, and Raymond was born with tremendous superpowers that would only awaken with light exposure.
Upon discovering his new powers, Ray decided to follow in his father's footsteps as"¦The Ray! Not"¦uh, not much room for a secret identity there, huh? But whatever, The Ray was inducted into the Justice League after Superman's death, and stayed with the team on and off for a while. He would later join the super-90s incarnation known as the Justice League Task Force, but hey, everyone has an embarrassing teenage phase.
Plus, the Ray has just been announced as a member of the Brand new JLA team, so I'm psyched!
I love Firestorm so much.
The concept is so great that I don't even care which Firestorm we're discussing. I like Jason Rusch just as much as Ronnie Raymond or Dr. Martin Stein, maybe more. But since we're talking about the JLA lineup, let's go with the original. Ronnie Raymond was a dumb jock of a high school student. When he showed up to protest the opening of a new nuclear plant, he met Dr. Martin Stein, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who worked at the plant.
When the reactor malfunctioned, Stein and Raymond were both caught in the radioactive aftermath and found themselves fused into"¦Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. Two minds sharing the same body, with Raymond taking the lead. Along with this man with two heads scenario, Firestorm also gained the ability to transmute any non-organic matter into any other form of non-organic matter.
He was swiftly inducted into the Justice League as one of its youngest members and brightest stars, although he had the Flash sit him in the time-out chair for being a jerk a couple of times.
4. Booster Gold
Such a jerk, but I love "˜im anyway.
Michael Jon Carter was an all-star athlete in the fuuuuuuuuuuuture. But when he got caught betting on his own games, he lost his position in disgrace. Winding up as a janitor for a museum, Michael eventually came up with a plan. Stealing a super-suit, a Legion flight ring, and a security robot named Skeets, Michael hopped in a time machine and went back to the 20th century to become a superhero exclusively for fame and money.
Everyone, meet Booster Gold, going back to get ahead! Booster sought out fame with the Justice League International, where he became best buddies with someone we'll talk about in a bit, but he eventually learned to be an actual hero, at least somewhat.
When his best friend was killed, Booster spent most of a year wallowing in his worst traits before he really came into his own as the greatest hero of the timestream. Booster Gold, the greatest hero never known.
3. The Atom
And you thought shrinking to the size of an ANT was impressive.
Ray Palmer was a scientist who came across a strange piece of white dwarf star matter that could shrink things. So he made it into a belt. A shrinkin' belt. As in a belt that allows him to shrink, not just a belt that shrinks. That's like the opposite of what I've been needing lately. Palmer became The Atom, fought a buncha dudes, and went back in time a good deal and stuff.
He also became Hawkman's best friend because"¦um"¦I legit can't figure that one out. Literally no one likes Hawkman. He's a jerk, and his solution to every problem is to hit it with a mace. His idea of dealing with something intimately is to use a smaller mace!
Ray was also one of the very few divorced superheroes. This was before his ex-wife Jean Loring murdered a close friend, got sent to Arkham, and became possessed by the supervillain Eclipso. Ugh, exes, am I right? But Ray has always been a League mainstay, and was the second person to join the team after its formation, preceded only by Green Arrow and followed by"”ugh"”Hawkman.
2. Red Tornado
Can an android dream? Can he feel pain or emotion? Does he have a soul? These are the questions that plague the Red Tornado.
I LOOOOOOOOVE Red Tornado. His first appearance in Justice League of America #64 is one of the most prized issues I own. Especially due to his time in the Justice League. Tornado was"¦okay, it’s confusing. He was originally retconned as the fusion of an elemental being called the Tornado Champion and a robot body built by mad scientist T.O. Morrow. Tornado spent a long time with the JLA, battling the nature of his humanity, until the Crisis.
Afterward, he served with Young Justice for a while before rejoining the Justice League and becoming a top-tier member. Since the New 52 reboot, he's been reverted back to a typical, occasionally evil, android, which is a tragedy.
Red Tornado is an incredible character, and I truly miss his presence, especially in Justice League stories.
1. Blue Beetle
God, I'm so happy Ted Kord is back in the DCU.
Ted was a student with a deep respect for his friend and mentor, Dan Garrett. Upon following Garrett on one of his expeditions to investigate Ted's evil Uncle Jarvis, he discovered Garrett's true identity as the Blue Beetle, just in time for him to die. Ted took up the mantle, but rather than use Dan's "magic" scarab, he built himself an array of tech gadgets and other toys. He fought evil and stopped crime for years before joining the Justice League International, where he became best friends with teammate Booster Gold.
It was around this time that he developed his crush on the love of his life, Barbara Gordon. But Ted fell into obscurity after the JLI disbanded. He started looking into his former boss, Maxwell Lord, only to discover that Max had been planning a method for eliminating all of earth's superheroes and taking over the world. Ted challenged Max and wound up getting shot in the head for his trouble. But now thanks to the double reboot, he's alive again, so"¦
And there we go, the best of the underrated. So many great Leaguers, I could do so many more of these lists and never run out of characters to promote. And all of them are worthy of being members of the greatest team of heroes of all time: The Justice League of America.